AFP: Record numbers of countries voted in favor of UN General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Iran, North Korea and Myanmar.
By Tim Witcher
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Record numbers of countries voted in favor of UN General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Iran, North Korea and Myanmar.
The Iran vote came only three days after the General Assembly condemned an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington — which the United States accuses Iran of masterminding.
Only Myanmar’s government was given encouragement in the vote, even though it complained that it should not have taken place.
The 193-member assembly passed a resolution condemning “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” by Iranian authorities with 86 votes in favor, six more than last year, 32 against, down 12 from 2010, and 59 abstentions.
The resolution, proposed by Canada, condemned “flogging and amputations” carried out in Iran and deplored a “dramatic increase” in the use of the death penalty, particularly against minors. Many human rights groups say events have deteriorated in Iran over the past year.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, an advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, called the resolution “substantially unfounded and intentionally malicious” in a speech to the General Assembly’s human rights committee.
Syria, which faces a special human rights vote on Tuesday over its deadly crackdown on opposition protests, spoke out strongly for its Iranian ally.
The North Korea vote was passed with 112 votes in favor, 16 against and 55 abstentions. On Myanmar the vote was 98 in favor and 25 against with 63 abstentions.
The assembly raised “very serious concern” over the “torture” and “inhuman conditions of detention, public executions, extra-judicial and arbitrary detention” in North Korea.
It also condemned the “existence of a large number of prison camps and the extensive use of forced labor.”
The Myanmar resolution welcomed recent talks between democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military-dominated government, the release of some political prisoners and other changes over the past year.
But the General Assembly said there were still “systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
It highlighted “arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” It also raised concerns about the treatment of ethnic minorities such as the Karen people.
Western nations, which have imposed sanctions on Myanmar, have sought to encourage the tentative reforms started by the government. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to hold talks in Myanmar next month.
Myanmar’s UN ambassador U Than Swe highlighted the government’s efforts towards “building a flourishing, democratic society.”
“We do deserve warm, welcome, kind understanding and sincere encouragements of the international community rather than unconstructive approach by adopting such resolutions,” he told the assembly.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said the Myanmar resolution reflected “the international community?s hope for progress in the country” while expressing “continuing concern over violations of human rights.”
In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague acknowledged the changes in Myanmar, but said “human rights abuses continue, especially in ethnic areas, and the level of support for this resolution shows once again that the international community has not forgotten the people” of Myanmar.
“The UN General Assembly passed these three resolutions by a record majority today, and I welcome the strong signal that sends,” Hague said.