U.S. Engagement in the UN General Assembly Third Committee
Office of the Spokesperson
December 7, 2018
Beginning on October 2, 2018, the United States effectively engaged the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee to address serious human rights violations, abuses, and crises around the world. Notable resolutions included:
- Burma: The resolution addressed the large-scale human rights abuses perpetrated by Burmese security forces against Rohingya in Rakhine State and against other ethnic minorities in Kachin and Shan States – including extrajudicial killings, torture, and sexual violence. We welcomed the resolution’s call for accountability for those responsible for these abuses and the immediate establishment of an independent UN mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence as well as its call on the Burmese authorities to address root causes of violence and establish conditions that will allow for the voluntary, safe, sustainable, and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
- North Korea: The resolution rightly condemned the continued abuses perpetrated by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killing, torture, and other violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms occurring both inside and outside of North Korea’s extensive prison camp system throughout the country. It called on the DPRK to allow the Special Rapporteur to visit and encouraged implementation of recommendations of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK. It also called for accountability and noted human rights is intrinsically linked to peace and security.
- Iran: The General Assembly again expressed its concerns regarding the repression of rights in Iran, including severe restrictions on the enjoyment of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association – including excessive use of force against peaceful protestors as well as credible reports of the use of torture. The resolution also called on Iran to release arbitrarily detained persons; the United States estimates that Iran holds over 800 prisoners of conscience, including foreign nationals, on spurious charges. The resolution also addressed abuses against religious and ethnic minority groups, such as the Ahwazis, Gonabadi Sufis, Bahais, and Christian converts who are targets of abuse, including denial of basic public services, arbitrary detention, and failure to provide fair trial guarantees.
- Syria: The General Assembly resolution rightly called attention to the Syrian government’s egregious violations and abuses of human rights, including torture, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, as well as violations of international humanitarian law, including through the use of prohibited munitions, including chemical weapons. The resolution addressed specific Syrian military intelligence facilities where the UN COI and Syrian documentation groups have provided horrendous accounts of rape, mutilation, and killing of detainees. The facilities include: Branch 215, Branch 227, Branch 235, Branch 251, the Air Force Intelligence Investigation Branch at Mezzeh military airport, Sednaya prison and military hospitals, including Tishreen and Harasta. In the General Assembly, the United States stressed that tens of thousands of women, children, doctors, humanitarian aid providers, human rights defenders and journalists have been detained and reportedly subjected to torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. By the regime’s own admission, hundreds of Syrian detainees, some arrested in 2011 at the start of the peaceful protests, have been killed while in government custody.
- Crimea: The resolution condemned the Russian Federation for its attempts to legitimize or normalize its attempted annexation of Crimea, including automatic imposition of Russian citizenship and illegal election campaigns. The resolutions addressed the reported use of torture, placement in psychiatric institutions, and arbitrary detentions by Russian authorities to seek false confession for politically motivated prosecutions and to harass and punish political opponents and activists. The resolution also called for the immediate release and return to of Ukrainian citizens who were unlawfully detained and the monitoring and accommodating of medical needs by independent international monitors and physicians of all Ukrainian citizens unlawfully detained for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The resolution also called out the severe curtailment of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion or belief the Russian Federation has instituted, especially with regard to the Crimean Tatar and ethnic Ukrainian communities. The United States categorically rejects Russia’s purported annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, and we fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
- Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association: The United States presented a new resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Current events demonstrate that some states routinely violate the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association with impunity, employing arbitrary arrest and detention – and even extrajudicial killings – to thwart peaceful demonstrations for systemic change. The United States put forward this resolution to call attention to the threats and attacks many individuals are facing around the world for peacefully assembling, covering protests as a journalist or media worker, or serving as mediators between the government and those protesting. While this resolution purposefully does not “name names,” it draws needed attention to the issue, citing and condemning specific patterns of abuse.
- Women’s Health and Wellbeing: During this session, the Third Committee considered important resolutions to combat female genital mutilation, obstetric fistula, and violence against women. While the United States joined consensus on all three, we also took the opportunity to propose sensible amendments to remove problematic language such as “sexual and reproductive health,” which has over time accumulated connotations that run counter to previously agreed international consensus. These terms have been used to promote abortion and the right to abortion. While the United States fully supports the principle of voluntary choice regarding maternal and child health and family planning, we do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our global health assistance and therefore cannot accept the inclusion of these references in what are otherwise important health-related resolutions. The United States is a tireless advocate for and funder of programs and activities designed to improve the health, life, dignity, and well-being of women and children.