Geneva, Sept. 27, 2006 — Today the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva debated reports delivered by its human rights envoys for North Korea, Sudan and Belarus, three of the world’s most repressive regimes. UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the world body’s human rights activities, welcomed the reports and issued the following statement.
UN Watch commends the three experts for their work in these important mandates, often under difficult circumstances. UN Watch appreciates, in particular, the persistence of the experts on North Korea and Belarus, whose countries of focus refuse to cooperate or allow them to visit. UN Watch urges the Council to continue these three essential mandates.
With respect to the individual reports:
- North Korea: The report of Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, the Council expert on North Korea, cited a long list of grave human rights violations by the dictatorial regime, including of the rights to life, food, personal security, humane treatment, freedom of movement, asylum and refugee protections, self-determination, political participation, access to information, and freedoms of expression, opinion, association, belief, conscience and religion. He noted that the plight of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled is particularly bad. UN Watch endorses Mr. Muntarbhorn’s call that the international community must continue to provide humanitarian aid, including food aid, to North Korea’s long-suffering civilians, and urges the North Korean government to cooperate fully with these aid efforts. UN Watch also urges the government of North Korea to cooperate with Mr. Muntarbhorn and to heed his call that it must respect its citizens’ human rights.
UN Watch condemned the North Korean ambassador’s response, which resorted to harsh and offensive invective, rather than addressing the disturbing substance of the report. He called Mr. Muntarbhorn’s report “the outcome of a conspiracy by the U.S., Japan and Europe” to take over North Korea. He said “we will never surrender,” and that “the socialist system is home and happiness to our people.” He also accused the U.S. of human rights violations, xenophobia, and “Nazism.”
- Sudan: The report of the expert on Sudan, Ms. Sima Samar, concluded that, despite recent peace agreements that were supposed to end the civil strife in Sudan, the dire human rights situation in the country has not improved. In fact, the latest reports indicate that the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur is not only continuing, but escalating, and the human rights and humanitarian situation is worsening. Widespread attacks against civilians and humanitarian aid workers continue, with impunity. UN Watch commends the recent decisions of the African Union to extend and increase its small peacekeeping force in Darfur, and of the Arab League to help fund the force. UN Watch also urges the Human Rights Council to take urgent action for the civilians of Darfur by adopting a strong resolution condemning the human rights violations there, and urging the government of Sudan to admit UN peacekeeping troops to Darfur to assist the African Union force, as required by Security Council Resolution 1706.
This afternoon’s statements from the African group, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference suggest that there may be a move afoot by Sudan’s allies in the Council to propose a watered-down resolution on Darfur that would merely encourage the further implementation of the peace agreements, ask for “dialogue” among the warring parties, and urge the international community to provide the Sudanese government with more “financial and technical support.” UN Watch believes that this would be an abdication of the Council’s responsibility. The Council must hold the government of Sudan, and the other warring parties, to account for their grave violations of human and humanitarian rights.
In a statement delivered before the plenary this afternoon, UN Watch urged the Council to act immediately, saying “the very credibility of this Council is at stake. Why is this Council refusing to speak out with a clear voice, to specifically condemn the gross violations committed by Sudan? When will this Council convene a special session to confront this dire and worsening emergency? If the millions of victims of Darfur do not qualify, who does? If not now, when?”
- Belarus: The expert on Belarus, Mr. Adrian Severin, described a government that rejects pluralism and dialogue, lacks any checks and balances, denies its citizens their internationally-guaranteed civil rights and political freedoms, persecutes intellectuals, opponents, independent journalists and human rights defenders, and breaches its peoples’ economic, social and cultural rights. He described Belarus as “a real dictatorship, with clear totalitarian inclinations.” UN Watch calls on the government of Belarus to fully cooperate with Mr. Severin and to put an end to the gross human rights violations he has documented.