General Assembly Strongly Condemns Widespread, Systematic Human Rights Violations in Syria, as it Adopts 56 Resolutions Recommended by Third Committee
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
60th Meeting (AM)
Also Calls for Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, Death Penalty Moratorium;
Other Resolutions Address Broad Range of Human Rights, Humanitarian, Social Issues
The General Assembly today adopted 56 resolutions and 9 decisions recommended by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), including a text strongly condemning “widespread and systematic” gross human rights violations by Syrian authorities and calling on them to immediately end such abuse.
By the resolution on Syria — adopted by a recorded vote of 135 in favour to 12 against, with 36 abstentions (Annex XV) — the Assembly called on that country to protect the population and fully comply with its international law obligations. It urged the immediate release of all persons arbitrarily detained, stressing its support for a peaceful, democratic and pluralistic society, and demanding that Syria provide the international commission of inquiry unfettered access to all areas of the country.
Speaking before action, Syria’s delegate said the politicized resolution on her country hindered the search for peaceful solutions based on the six-point plan and work of the United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. She refuted the text’s allegations, saying that its co-sponsors — Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Morocco —had escalated the violence by their intervention in Syria’s internal affairs. Their support of terrorism had led to the deaths of thousands of Syrians. Armed groups, backed by the co-sponsors, continued to target pipelines, strategic food crops and railways, aiming only to create conditions conducive to the collapse of State institutions, and ultimately, anarchy. “This is tantamount to a military attack,” she said.
In other notable action, the Assembly adopted its first-ever text aimed at ending female genital mutilation, concluding a determined effort by African States. By its terms, the Assembly recognized that such mutilations were an irreparable, irreversible abuse of the human rights of woman and girls, and reaffirmed it as a serious threat to their health. States were urged to condemn all such practices, whether committed within or outside a medical institution, and take measures — including legislation — to prohibit female genital mutilations, and protect women and girls from that form of violence. By other terms, the Assembly called for the continued observance of 6 February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
Speaking after action, the representative of Burkina Faso said the degrading practice of female genital mutilation harmed women’s physical and moral integrity, and was falsely justified under religious and cultural pretences. The text’s adoption sent a strong political message, and one of hope for the millions of women and girls facing that odious practice.
Africa — the resolution’s standard bearer — had mobilized to combat female genital mutilation, he said, with Governments showing political will to free women from its yoke by launching programmes, adopting laws and releasing both human and financial resources. Civil society was raising awareness and he welcomed the campaign for a global ban on female genital mutilations launched by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices. Indeed, the time had come to recognize women’s rights, break the silence surrounding female genital mutilation and move towards its elimination. He called on all co-sponsors to play an active role in creating a world free of female genital mutilation.
The Assembly also advanced its call to end the use of the death penalty with the passage — by recorded vote of 111 in favour to 41 against, with 34 abstentions — of a text calling on States to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the practice (Annex XIII). It was the fourth such text adopted since 2007. By its terms, the Assembly called on States to progressively restrict the death penalty’s use and not impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age and pregnant women. States were also called on to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty might be imposed.
Forty-one texts enjoyed consensus, including those dealing with social development, women’s advancement, children’s rights, indigenous peoples, crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control. Among them was an annual omnibus text on rights of the child, which contained a section devoted to indigenous children. By its terms, the Assembly called on States to take measures to protect the rights of indigenous children against all forms of discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation, and safeguard their right to access education.
For a second year, the Assembly adopted a consensus text on combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief. Tabled again by the representative of the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Assembly, by the text, called on States to adopt measures that criminalized incitement to violence based on religion or belief.
A similarly titled consensus text on freedom of religion or belief had the Assembly recognize with deep concern rising violence against members of religious and other communities in various parts of the world, including cases motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia. States were urged to ensure that no one was discriminated against on the basis of religion or belief when accessing education, medical care, employment, humanitarian assistance or social benefits.
Of the other two country-specific texts adopted today, the historically contentious resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea passed for the first time without a vote. The other text on Iran was adopted by a vote of 86 in favour to 32 against, with 65 abstentions (Annex XIV). A similar text on Myanmar was postponed pending a statement on budget implications by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), as was a resolution on the Committee against torture.