UN slams Burma and other rights abusers

A UN committee has condemned the “ongoing systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms” of Burmese in a draft resolution that was given rare approval yesterday.

The resolution, sponsored by Belgium, was ratified by 96 votes of the General Assembly’s Third Committee, with 28 against and 60 abstentions. “It was a matter of deep regret that, despite calls from the international community, steps had not been taken by the Government to ensure free, fair and inclusive elections on 7 November,” the Belgian delegate said.

Amid widespread allegations of corruption, the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was yesterday announced the official winners of Burma’s first vote in two decades, with an apparent 76.5 percent of seats.

The delegate said that the draft had been based on reports by UN rights’ experts, “which confirmed that the overall situation of human rights in that country was still a matter of deep concern”.

Burma’s UN representative, Than Swe, reacted however that the country was not bound by a resolution that had no “moral authority” and was “seriously flawed”, AFP said.

The Belgian statement continued: “The release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi [on 13 November] was a significant development, but the situation of more than 2,100 prisoners of conscience could not be ignored; many of them were sick, elderly and far from their families, and the draft urges their immediate release.”

Iran and North Korea were also condemned. Iran retaliated by saying that their people did not want “western democracy”, and called the UK the “United Kingdom of Devils”.

US ambassador to the UN, Susan rice, said: “By condemning three of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers and shining a spotlight on deplorable human rights practices in these countries, member states have stayed true to the founding values of the UN”.

The US was itself in the firing line this week when UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, Juan Ernesto Mendez – himself a former political prisoner in Argentina – said that Washington needed to investigate torture of its political prisoners, following former President George W Bush’s admittance to the use of water-boarding.

“The United States has a duty to investigate every act of torture. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much in the way of accountability,” Mendez told Reuters, adding that US’ use of torture in Iraq was widespread, and must be investigated by US officials in a “non-partisan” fashion.

One of the countries to vote against the UN draft was Egypt, who along with North Korea, Burma and Iran is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It questioned why all the resolutions drafted in the General Assembly were against developing nations.

No such resolution was drafted against China, however, which holds a powerful position within the UN but which has also been accused of similar rights abuses in the past. Its ambassador said during the meeting of the Third Committee, which deals with ‘Social, Humanitarian and Cultural’ affairs, that “finger-pointing does not protect human rights”.

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