In a full day of action, held in person, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved 12 draft resolutions, including 8 on human rights questions and 2 on crime prevention.
The Committee approved — without a vote — a draft aimed at strengthening effective measures and international cooperation on organ donation and transplantation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal. By its terms, the Assembly would urge Member States that have not yet done so to ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. It would also request the World Health Organization (WHO) and other United Nations bodies to establish guidelines to Member States to develop orderly and ethical programmes for the acquisition and transplantation of human organs for therapeutic purposes.
The Committee also approved eight other drafts on the promotion and protection of human rights, largely by recorded vote. However, the first of them — on the right to privacy in the digital age — was approved by consensus. It would have the Assembly acknowledge that the conception, design, use, deployment and further development of new and emerging technologies, such as those that involve artificial intelligence (AI), may have an impact on the enjoyment of the right to privacy. It would also call on States to end violations of the right to privacy and to create the conditions for preventing such violations.
The representative of Germany, introducing the draft, said it sought to safeguard the right to privacy of individuals, which is ever more urgent, given the increased numbers of office workers and children taking to the Internet to conduct their work and study. The COVID‑19 pandemic has led many countries, including Germany, to process health data on a vast scale, to help generate up-to-date forecasts. The text aims to protect the right to privacy when using such techniques.
Among the seven drafts put to a vote today under the broad theme of promoting and protecting human rights, none attracted more friction than one calling for a moratorium on use of the death penalty. Following the introduction of the draft by Switzerland’s delegate, an amendment was put forth by a group of 33 countries, which sought to add a passage asserting the “sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties.”
The representative of Singapore, introducing the amendment, decried what he characterized as a “one-size-fits-all” approach taken by the draft’s co-facilitators, who sought to impose a “mindset of the past” on other countries, and refused to stipulate in the text that capital punishment is not illegal under international law. The amendment was subsequently approved — by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 69 against, with 17 abstentions — to the consternation of some, including the United Kingdom, which withdrew its co-sponsorship of the draft resolution. Despite such differences, the draft resolution was approved as amended, with 120 votes in favour to 39 against, with 24 abstentions.
Meanwhile, the Committee also approved — after recorded votes — draft resolutions on the right to development, the right to food, the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the right to self-determination, human rights and unilateral coercive measures, the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, and the promotion of peace.
In other business, the Committee approved, by consensus, draft resolutions on enhancing cooperation in the field of human rights, combating corrupt practices, and strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 November, to take further action on draft resolutions.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled, “The right to privacy in the digital age” (document A/C.3/75/L.40), which the Chair noted has no programme budget implications.
The representative of Germany, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of his country and Brazil, said human rights of all individuals, protected offline, must also be protected online. The right to privacy is ever more urgent, as time spent online has increased significantly in recent years. “More of us spend days and nights before a screen: office workers, children, and United Nations delegates,” he said. Further, trends in data storage and processing pose new challenges. In Germany, health data is used on a big scale to generate real-time forecasts. The draft resolution aims to protect the right to privacy when using such techniques to fight the COVID‑19 pandemic. Turning to artificial intelligence, he said its use, in concert with big data, will “fundamentally change” how people live and work, and may even change society. The draft emphasizes that unlawful surveillance and the interception of communications violates right to privacy. “Risks exist, and must be examined,” he stressed, adding that individuals can be identified even in anonymized data sets. Moreover, AI algorithms can deduce information on people, based on data sets, thereby influencing their access to credit or health insurance, as well as their likelihood of being fired or promoted.
The Committee then approved “L.40” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would acknowledge that the conception, design, use, deployment and further development of new and emerging technologies, such as those that involve artificial intelligence, may have an impact on the enjoyment of the right to privacy, and that the risks to such rights should be avoided and minimized by adapting or adopting adequate regulation or other appropriate mechanisms. Further, it would call on States work to end violations of the right to privacy and to create the conditions for preventing such violations, including by ensuring that national legislation complies with their international human rights law obligations. It would also encourage businesses to work towards enabling technical solutions to secure and protect the confidentiality of digital communications, including measures for encryption, pseudonymization and anonymity, and would call upon States not to interfere with the use of such technical solutions.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote, said she joined consensus despite concerns with some aspects of the text. While the draft expresses concern about the automatic processing of data, which may lead to profiling or discrimination, she said “it is also worth noting data analytics can create benefits for the economy and society, with the help of robust safeguards”. Further, access to data should not be denied to law enforcement, if required. She noted that the section pertaining to business enterprises is “too prescriptive”. Regarding preambular paragraphs 20, 22, and 28, the United States’ position must be understood to be consistent with its position towards similar provisions in The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, she said, noting that the United States also dissociates from operative paragraph 4.
The representative of Iraq, speaking in explanation of vote, said her country shared concerns over the misuse of such rights to commit terrorist acts. Citing Iraq’s experience, she said Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) misused the right to privacy through social media platforms. Children were subjected to recruitment and even death. Those children’s rights must be protected, she said, expressing hope that this issue will be reflected in the resolution in the coming years.
The representative of New Zealand, speaking in explanation of vote, said the collection of data helps countries respond to public crises. However, this can inadvertently expose information about individuals and breach their privacy. While she welcomed the draft resolution’s mention of the important role of the right to privacy in the context of sexual- and gender-based violence, she expressed regret about the excision of the mention of gender-identity. More collaboration is needed between Governments to enhance individual safety and to respond to terrorism.
The representative of Canada, speaking in explanation of vote, said the draft aligns with his country’s long history of laws protecting privacy and promoting rights. While there is a legal basis to restrict these rights, such restrictions must adhere to safeguards and be proved necessary for the protection of national security, order, health or moral order. Turning to preambular paragraph 4, he said it is not well-defined or agreed upon. “We need to close the digital divide, but this matter is better suited to the Second Committee,” he said.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of vote, expressed regret about the removal from the text of mentions of gender identity and sexual orientation in the context of gender-based abuse and harassment. On operative paragraph 9, she said the United Kingdom’s views on end-to-end encryption were published online on 11 October.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/75/L.24), which the Chair said contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft, said that due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic for the holding of in-person meetings, Cuba has presented just one technical update of the text that was adopted at the last session. This draft resolution reaffirms that mercenaries present a threat to peace and security as well as the right to self-determination. The draft is fully in line with the Charter of the United Nations and should be approved by consensus.
The Chair noted that a recorded vote had been requested.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote about the contrast between mercenaries and private military and security companies, said the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries should focus solely on mercenaries. The United States maintains its long-standing position on this draft resolution and will vote “no”.
The Committee then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 52 against, with 7 abstentions (Brazil, Colombia, Liberia, Mexico, Palau, Switzerland, Tonga).
By its terms, the Assembly would request the Working Group on the use of mercenaries to continue its work on strengthening the international legal framework for the prevention and sanction of the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries, taking into account the proposal for a new legal definition of a mercenary drafted by the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries — as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination — in his report.
By other terms, the Assembly would call on States that have not yet done so to accede or ratify the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. Further, it would urge, once again, all States to exercise the utmost vigilance against the menace posed by mercenary activities and to take legislative measures to ensure that their territories and other territories under their control are not used for — and that their nationals do not take part in — the recruitment, assembly, financing, training, protection or transit of mercenaries for activities designed to impede the right to self-determination.
The representative of Argentina expressed full support for exercising the right to self-determination
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled, “Promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all” (document A/C.3/75/L.23), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, presenting the draft resolution, said given the online format of the meeting, his country decided to introduce only one technical update. The draft represents the right to peace, which is indispensable for the enjoyment of all human rights by everyone, he said, adding that the draft is based on the founding principles of the United Nations. Should any delegation request a vote, he encouraged States to vote in favour.
The representative of the United States, requesting a vote, disagreed with the definition of a “collective right to peace”. Stressing that human rights are universal, she opposed efforts that would in any way modify the exercise of existing human rights. As this draft resolution improperly frames existing human rights, she called for a vote and said the United States will vote against the text.
The representative of the United Kingdom said her country is fully committed to the promotion of all human rights, democracy and the rule of law. However, respect for human rights must not be conditional on peace. The draft focuses solely on relationships and obligations between States and omits any reference to the fundamental duties of States towards their citizens. The draft ignores the core mandate of the Third Committee, and thus, she will vote against it.
The representative of Brazil said the maintenance of peace and human rights are mutually reinforcing, noting that his country will vote against the draft, given its “unbalanced and politically motivated” content.
The Committee then approved “L.23” by a recorded vote of 128 in favour, to 53 against, with 2 abstentions (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tonga).
By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the Declaration on the Right to Peace, adopted on 19 December 2016, and invite States, agencies and organizations of the United Nations to disseminate and promote universal respect for this document. It would stress that the deep fault line dividing human society between the rich and poor, and the ever‑increasing gap between the developed and developing worlds, pose a major threat to global prosperity, peace and security. The Assembly would thus urge all States to uphold the principles of the Charter of the United Nations in their relations with other States, irrespective of their political, economic or social system, and of their size or geographic location.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order” (document A/C.3/75/L.25), which the Chair noted has no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft, said the text largely adheres to the one adopted during the Assembly’s seventy-fourth session, with the exception of new sections that address the impact of the pandemic. A democratic and equitable international order will boost all nations, including those of the global South, and help them better respond to COVID‑19. “An international order must be based on equity, common interest and international cooperation,” he stressed.
A recorded vote was then requested by the United States.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote, called for the vote and said she would vote against the draft, as her country has concerns with the general premise, as well as specific aspects of the text.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of vote, said she would vote against the text as it exceeds the scope of the United Nations agenda and does not fit the mandate of the Third Committee.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to 54 against, with 8 abstentions (Armenia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Liberia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay).
By its terms, the Assembly would urge all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, social justice, equality and equity, human dignity, solidarity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, and to reject all doctrines of exclusion. Further, the Assembly would call on all States to fulfil their commitment expressed during the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. It would also affirm that a democratic and equitable international order requires realization of the right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources, and the right of all peoples to development and peace.
The Committee then took up draft resolution “L.26” on “The right to food”, which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, introducing the text, said that bearing in mind the limitations on the holding of meetings in person, the draft corresponds largely with the text of the previous session. Its new elements address the impact of COVID‑19 on the right to food. Hunger is an outrage and a violation of human dignity, he said, stressing that everyone has the right to access sufficient nutritious food. Protection of this human right should be an aim shared by all, and he urged that the draft be adopted by consensus.
The representative of the United States requested a recorded vote on “L.26”.
The representative of the United States, in explanation of vote, said that for communities already facing hunger, the pandemic is harming people’s ability to provide for themselves and their families. The draft acknowledges the hardships people are facing. However, it also contains many “unbalanced and unwise” provisions, which her delegation cannot support, and does not articulate meaningful solutions for preventing hunger or malnutrition. The concept of food sovereignty could justify protectionism, she asserted.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 186 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with no abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would recognize that the problems of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition have a global dimension, that there has not been sufficient progress in reducing hunger and that these problems are increasing dramatically in some regions in the absence of urgent action. The Assembly would note with great concern that millions of people are facing famine, and that poverty, armed conflict, drought and COVID‑19 are among the factors exacerbating famine and severe food insecurity. The Assembly would call on all States to support programmes aimed at combating undernutrition in mothers, in particular during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and eliminating preventable mortality of children under 5 years of age.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled, “Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights” (document A/C.3/75/L.27), which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, presenting the draft resolution on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said there was only one technical update to the text. He said the draft aims to promote international cooperation in the sphere of human rights, underscoring the importance of a constructive spirit and dialogue.
The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of cooperation and constructive dialogue. Expressing deep concern over the selective adoption of country‑specific resolutions, she warned against breaching the principles of non‑selectivity and impartiality, and reiterated the importance of the universal periodic review as an action‑oriented cooperative mechanism.
The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would recognize that States have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. It would urge States to take measures to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation aimed at addressing the adverse impact of global financial, economic crises and food crises, as well as climate change and natural disasters, on the full enjoyment of human rights.
The representative of the United States dissociated from preambular paragraph 5 based on the incorrect assertion that enhancement of international cooperation is essential for the effective promotion and protection of all human rights. International cooperation is a helpful instrument; however, each individual State maintains primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights. “The absence of cooperation does not implicate the failure to honour these obligations,” she asserted.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Human rights and unilateral coercive measures” (document A/C.3/75/L.28), which the Chair noted has no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said it largely corresponds with the text put forth during the Assembly’s seventy-fourth session. The new portions touch on the “pernicious impact” of sanctions on countries’ abilities to respond to the pandemic. Moreover, it cites calls by the Secretary‑General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights for sanctions to be lifted in light of the pandemic. Adding an oral correction to preambular paragraph 6, he reiterated his firm opposition to the use of sanctions as a tool to place economic and political pressure on developing countries and called on all States to support the draft, should it be put to vote.
A recorded vote was then requested by the United States.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote, said sanctions are not punitive; they are a tool to promote accountability for those committing human rights abuses. The draft, therefore, advances a false narrative. It constitutes an inappropriate challenge to States seeking merely to promote their legitimate national interest or respond to national security concerns. “We will not allow the health emergency to be exploited to achieve relief,” she stressed, adding that the draft resolution’s stance undermines States’ ability to promote international norms, and to constrain bad actors that threaten their allies or civilians. Noting that humanitarian activities are excluded from United States sanctions programmes, she said “we extend legitimate aid to Venezuela and Syria, while their leaders [Nicolás] Maduro and [Bashar al‑] Assad work to exclude it.”
The representative of Chile said sanctions violate the United Nations Charter and contravene the norms governing peaceful relations between States. “The global emergency has made this clear,” he said. While Cuba will support the draft’s approval, it will maintain impartiality and rejects any political use of the resolution. “The focus must be to protect the human rights of peoples affected by these sanctions,” he said, adding: “It must not be distorted to protect the regimes who violate human rights.”
The representative of China, speaking in general statement, said sanctions violate the norms of international relations and undermine countries’ ability to improve the living standards of their people. A few countries stubbornly adhere to the use of sanctions, severely trampling on the human rights of vulnerable groups, he stressed. China feels deeply for affected countries and takes action to support their rights. It will hold a meeting at the Security Council on 26 November to address this issue.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking in general statement, said the draft resolution is increasingly vital, given the global situation. Sanctions impact a third of mankind, including 30 million Venezuelans. He deplored the “criminal” application of such actions against developing countries, adding that those imposing sanctions undermine peace and foist their political conceptions under “fallacious moral banners to defend democracy”. In reality, such actions constitute a crime against humanity under the category of extermination. They are imposed against Venezuela by the United States and its partners, he said, impacting his people’s access to medicines, food, fuel, financial services and their means of survival. They constitute a “sophisticated operation of economic suffocation, and a flagrant violation of human rights”, he stressed, adding that he will vote in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of Syria, speaking in a general statement, called for an end to sanctions imposed by countries that claim to defend human rights. Sanctions violate international law, the United Nations Charter, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They constitute a “collective punishment” and impact Syrian citizens’ livelihoods and their access to medicine and food. “We are not surprised by the actions of the United States, which leads the coalition that bombards my country and kills everything that lives,” she said, quoting a Syrian proverb referring to murderers who also attend the funeral. “This describes them.” On humanitarian exemptions, she recalled the statement by Alena Douhan, [Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights], who called them “confusing” and “complicated”.
The representative of Armenia, speaking in explanation of position, said the final document produced after the most recent Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in Baku contains “biased formulations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”. He deplored Azerbaijan’s abuse of the Movement’s chairmanship, as well as “their manipulative tactics”. He dissociated from paragraphs of the draft resolution referring to the text produced after the summit in Baku.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution on “Human rights and unilateral coercive measures”, as orally corrected, by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 54 against, with 1 abstention (Guatemala).
By its terms, the Assembly would recall that, at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, States were called on to refrain from any unilateral measure not in accordance with international law and the Charter. It would express grave concern that such measures create obstacles to trade among States, impede the full realization of social and economic development and hinder the wellbeing of the population in the affected countries, with particular consequences for women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. The Assembly would also express deep concern about the situation of States facing both unilateral coercive measures and the impact of COVID‑19. It would urge all States to cease adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the norms and principles governing peaceful State relations.
The representative of Mexico, speaking in explanation of vote, said he voted in favour of the draft resolution, as sanctions contravene the spirit of the United Nations Charter and impede friendly relations between States. However, he expressed reservations about preambular paragraph 16, which equates the right to development with the Sustainable Development Goals. “This generates confusion,” he stressed. “The right to development is a valid framework, but its addition weakens the core message about sanctions.” He expressed hope that future iterations of the text will instead emphasize the impact of such measures on sustainable development.
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of vote, said sanctions pose a threat to global stability at a time when the world is in need of multilateral solutions. He deplored the “unlawful” actions of some countries, which enact national laws with extra-territorial effects, adding that “no one is immune to such behaviour”. He unequivocally condemned the use of sanctions to “score political gains” and indiscriminately punish civilians, hindering their access to education, food and medicine.
The Committee next took up draft resolution “L.29” on “The right to development”, which the Chair said contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that bearing in mind the limitations of the pandemic and holding in-person meetings, the text corresponds for the most part with the text approved at the last session. The new text addresses the right to development in relation to the pandemic. He asked that all delegations vote in favour of it.
A recorded vote was requested by the representative of the United States.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that her country recognized the right to development based on the universality of all human rights. It is important to have a rights-based approach to development, but the primary responsibility to ensure that right is realized is owed by States to their people. The draft resolution continues to move away from consensus, she said, noting that a legally binding instrument is not appropriate in this context and that the United Kingdom will vote against the draft.
The representative of the United States expressed concern over a purported right to development, stressing that “the right to development” referenced in the text is not recognized in any of the core United Nations human rights conventions and does not have an agreed international meaning. The right to development appears to protect States rather than individuals, she said. Lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights, she said, noting that the United States will vote against the draft.
Draft resolution “L.29” was then approved by a recorded vote of 133 in favour to 24 against, with 29 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would acknowledge the need to strive for greater acceptance and realization of the right to development at the international level, while urging all States to undertake at the national level the necessary policy formulation. Further, it would support realization of the mandate of the Working Group on the Right to Development, calling on States to contribute to its efforts to elaborate a draft legally binding instrument on the right to development on the basis of the draft prepared by the Chair‑Rapporteur, as decided by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 42/23 of 27 September 2019.
The representative of China said the draft is based on previous consensus. However, the representative of the United States delegate stated that, due to a certain country’s wording in the text, it is opposed to the draft resolution. He said the United States only looks to the name of the country, rather than the draft resolution itself, and this is not constructive at all.
The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed her regret that no consensus was reached on such an important issue. The European Union is fully supportive of the right to development. As the world’s leading donor of official development assistance (ODA), the bloc is committed to do its part to fulfil this human right. A binding instrument is not the appropriate mechanism to realize the right to development. The draft also contains unclear concepts that aim at rewriting the United Nations Charter, such as the term “mutually reinforcing cooperation” rather than “international cooperation as contained in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The representative of Liechtenstein, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Iceland and Norway, said that each State is responsible for creating equal opportunities for its citizens based on non-discrimination. The draft’s reference to a legally binding instrument could obstruct the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Liechtenstein cannot support this draft but hopes that in future interactions, consensus can be broadened on the right to human development.
The representative of Mexico said his delegation abstained in the vote, due to concern over the possible distortion between human rights and a so-called right to development that is not legally binding. The inappropriate linking of the concept with the internationally recognized human rights framework generates a series of issues for the United Nations, he said.
The representative of Nigeria said the right to development should be a crucial part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of Switzerland said her country recognizes the damage caused by COVID‑19 to the world’s poorest people. A legally binding instrument is a long way from enjoying international consensus, she added.
Right of Reply
The representative of Turkey, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to remarks by Armenia’s delegate about Turkey’s involvement in the field and fighters from outside. Armenia’s intention is to divert focus from three decades of illegal occupation. Rather than take responsibility, Armenia resorts to propaganda, he said.
The representative of Azerbaijan accused her counterpart from Armenia of making another useless attempt to deny Armenia’s responsibility for continued violations of the United Nations Charter and international law. Armenia used military force to claim Nagorno‑Karabakh and set up a “subsidiary puppet regime” there. She said the President of Azerbaijan has warned that Armenia is prepared for a new military provocation against her country.
The representative of Armenia, referring to comments by his counterpart from Turkey about the alleged occupation of territories by Armenia, said there is a long list of countries under occupation by Turkey. Turkey’s delegate also referred to alleged involvement of mercenaries in the Nagorno‑Karabakh conflict. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries, there are reports that Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s help, used foreign fighters in Nagorno‑Karabakh.
The representative of Turkey rejected allegations made by her counterpart from Armenia regarding her country. The international community is well aware of all the situations referenced. She cited the spokesperson of Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, who previously explained in detail her country’s views on this issue.
The representative of Azerbaijan called remarks by Armenia’s representative “astonishing”, as the Security Council adopted four resolutions condemning the use of force against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territory.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled, “Preventing and combating corrupt practices and the transfer of proceeds of corruption, facilitating asset recovery and returning such assets to legitimate owners, in particular to countries of origin, in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption” (document A/C.3/75/L.4/Rev.1) which contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Colombia, presenting the draft, said it recognizes corruption as a serious barrier to poverty eradication and sustainable development. It notes that education plays an important role in preventing corruption and reaffirms the importance of respect for human rights, rule of law and democracy in addressing such behaviour. Further, it promotes international cooperation and considers new actors, such as civil society and the private sector, in the fight against corruption. “For Colombia, the fight against corruption is a national priority,” he said, pointing to his country’s role at international and national levels. “We believe that corruption erodes the basis of our society,” he added, linking this behaviour to other forms of national and transnational organized crime such as terrorism, money‑laundering, human trafficking and the illicit arms trade.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would condemn corruption at all levels and in all its forms, including bribery, as well as the laundering of proceeds from corruption and other forms of economic crime. It would express concern about the magnitude of corruption at all levels, notably the scale of stolen assets and proceeds of corruption, and in this regard, reiterate its commitment to preventing and combating corrupt practices at all levels, in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption. By other terms, the Assembly would strongly encourage States parties to engage in the Implementation Review Mechanism on chapter II, Preventive measures and chapter V, Asset recovery of the Convention.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” (document A/C.3/75/L.41), which the Chair noted has no programme budget implications.
The representative of Switzerland, introducing the text as co‑facilitator and on behalf of the interregional task force for the moratorium on the death penalty, said the text was largely built on those that had been adopted since 2012. The focus is on the moratorium and not on abolition of the practice. Six informal consultations were held online. While acknowledging that the death penalty remains a sensitive topic, transparency and inclusivity were essential during the debate. She outlined a number of places where the language was adjusted, including preambular paragraph 9, which mentions the role of civil society, and preambular paragraph 12, which notes the need for States to improve prison conditions. Further, operative paragraph 6 (c) adds amnesty and pardons, while operative paragraph 6 (d) strengthens the protection of minors. The text does not impose anything on States; its main aim is to invite all States to establish a moratorium on executions. Such a resolution will contribute to an increase in human dignity, and enhance the protection of human rights, including the right to life.
The representative of Singapore introduced amendment “L.54” on behalf of a group of countries, which seeks to introduce a new operative paragraph 1, reaffirming “the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations”. The proposed text is “constructive and respectful”, reaffirms the United Nations Charter and is consistent with international law. He expressed disappointment that this text was deleted from the draft, adding that it is “not fair or reasonable to delete a previously adopted text, as it sends a signal of disdain to the position of many countries”. The moratorium is “legally flawed, and fails to acknowledge international law”, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which permits use of the death penalty for the most serious crimes. “Our amendment defends the rights of Member States under international law,” he said, expressing regret over the “one‑size‑fits‑all” approach adopted by the co‑facilitators, which reflects a “mindset of the past” and seeks to impose a particular world view upon States.
The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the draft resolution is a human rights text, supported by Member States with varying stances towards the death penalty: some abolished capital punishment decades ago, others adopted moratoria on death sentences, or retained the practice but do not carry out executions. “We all agree on one thing: proclaiming a moratorium on the death penalty enhances the respect for human rights and dignity, as any miscarriage is irreversible and irreparable,” he stressed. Unfortunately, the amendment sends the message that respect for human rights and dignity infringes on national sovereignty. “The contrary is true,” he said. “The protection of dignity, whatever the issue, strengthens States and societies, and strengthens sovereignty.” The draft resolution does not ask States to change their criminal law or abolish the death penalty. However, the amendment is one‑sided, as it addresses the right of States to continue executions, and does not consider legal limits to this right. Therefore, Germany will vote against the amendment and calls on other States to do so.
The representative of Costa Rica said jurists have studied the death penalty and found no evidence that it serves as a deterrent. The death penalty is a most extreme, cruel, inhumane punishment which degrades the individual and violates the right to dignity and life. “There is no situation in which it is correct and justified,” he stressed. Costa Rica abolished it in 1882, the third country in the world to do so. Its justice system is focused on preventing crime and taking rehabilitative interventions. He called on countries to consider definitively abolishing the death penalty. He welcomed improvements introduced to the text, including minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners and a gender perspective. It also correctly recognizes progress made in recent decades. As the death penalty is not a tool for bringing about justice, Costa Rica supports the draft resolution and calls on States to vote against the amendment.
The representative of Canada expressed regret over the introduction of the amendment, calling it unhelpful. It is also unnecessary, as a preambular paragraph already notes that the text is guided by principles of the Charter of the United Nations, which includes the principle of State sovereignty. “The principle of State sovereignty has been woven into the fabric of the resolution,” she said, adding that she will vote against the amendment, and calling on others to do the same.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said he voted in favour of amendment “L.54”, convinced that a strong legal system supports the smooth functioning of a country, and that it is a Government’s ultimate responsibility to uphold the law.
The representative of Papua New Guinea, speaking in explanation of vote, reaffirmed the stance articulated by Singapore on behalf of like‑minded countries. “The draft resolution is highly insensitive to existing realities,” he said, adding that the moratorium is “a contentious divisive issue, on which there is no international consensus yet”. Draft resolution “L.41” suffers from fundamental flaws and was “crafted to promote parochial interests”. It deliberately omits the fact that the death penalty is not illegal. While the right to life is protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, capital punishment is not outlawed. He expressed regret over the inflexibility of the co‑facilitators, who did not heed the strong calls made by delegations, including his own. Papua New Guinea will vote in favour of the amendment and against the draft resolution.
The representative of Mexico, speaking as co-facilitator of the draft, said the text focused on a moratorium not abolition. He recalled the full responsibility of any State to determine its sovereignty, while adhering to international human rights obligations, noting that sovereign equality is affirmed in the first line of the text. This draft resolution has sought to strengthen the right to life over the past 13 years, fostered international debate and contributed to the progressive development of human rights. The death penalty is a human rights issue. Faithful to a humanist spirit, the co‑facilitators spared no effort to bridge positions on the sensitive issue. Nothing in the text undermines the principle of sovereign equality. In contrast, amendment “L.54” does not improve the text and he called on States to vote against it, and instead, focus on essence of the appeal contained in “L.41”.
The representative of Egypt, associating with Singapore’s statement and speaking in explanation of vote, said the sponsors failed to heed numerous requests to include the proposed operative paragraph 1. Amendment “L.54” attempts to strike a balance and improve the text, he said.
The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of vote, said the draft resolution respects international law and the exercise of sovereign powers. It does not interfere in States’ legislative authority; there are no provisions that force States to change their domestic legislation. “The draft amendment does not add value to the text,” she stressed, adding that the draft resolution helps States progress towards human rights. Argentina will vote against the amendment and calls upon other States to do so as well, she said.
The representative of Indonesia, associating with Singapore’s statement, underscored the importance of the amendment, as it ensures that diverse policies and legal systems are reflected in the text. “Decisions to undertake moratoriums or abolish penalty is a manifestation of State sovereignty,” he stressed.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in explanation of vote, said the draft resolution is an emotive issue, as it is “literally a matter of life and death”. As a co‑sponsor, the United Kingdom strongly opposes the amendment, which undermines the overall intent of the draft resolution. “Nothing in the text undermines the rights of States,” he stressed. The draft resolution does not ask States to change their criminal law and does not affect their right to direct their legal systems. Moreover, it is not an attempt to impose the will of some States over others. He urged Member States to vote against the amendment and to vote in favour of the draft resolution overall.
The representative of Saudi Arabia expressed regret about the lack of flexibility of the co‑facilitators, who did not add the amendment proposed by Singapore. Saudi Arabia will vote for the additional text, as it supports the right to determine appropriate legal penalties for crimes. He described a paragraph in the draft resolution on the death penalty’s deterrent effect as “baseless” and without scientific basis. Saudi Arabia reaffirms the right to impose the death penalty for egregious crimes within limited a scope, and guarantees a fair, transparent trial. “The death penalty guarantees the stability of society,” he stressed, a fact not reflected in the text of “L.41”, and thus, he will vote against it.
The representative of Sudan, associating with Singapore’s statement, said the amendment does not contravene human rights, and urged Member States to vote for it.
The Committee then approved the draft amendment “L.54” by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 69 against, with 17 abstentions.
The representative of Singapore, in a point of order, asked the Secretariat if the co-sponsors of the draft resolution automatically become co-sponsors of the amended draft. The Secretariat responded that the co-sponsors are the same, but if any wish to withdraw or add, they can do so.
The representative of Chile said he voted against the amendment, as it sends the wrong signal about human rights. He urged delegates to support the draft resolution as a whole.
The representative of Nigeria said he supported the amendment, given that every such measure should be considered on its own merits. Since 1999, Nigeria has not carried out any capital punishment, demonstrating its logical approach to the death penalty, despite the reality of its national laws.
The representative of the United Kingdom said his country was unable to support the amendment, as it does change the draft resolution. Clarifying that the United Kingdom had co-sponsored the unamended version of the draft resolution, he said it will now withdraw that co-sponsorship, as it would be odd to co-sponsor a text that includes an amendment it had rejected.
The representative of Egypt said his country restricts the death penalty to the most serious crimes. The draft resolution does not prohibit capital punishment. Rather, its aim is to ensure the practice is only imposed for the most serious crimes. However, it ignores that there is a diversity of legal and cultural conditions in the world and that all rules are not suitable for application in all societies and at all times.
The representative of El Salvador underlined her country’s commitment to uphold the right to life and the human rights of all persons, stressing that El Salvador will vote in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of Singapore welcomed the overwhelming support for the amendment, a text he described as a small step forward for multilateralism, mutual respect and mutual understanding. Operative paragraph 1 has a clear place in this draft resolution — it is not something to be denied or deleted. At the same time, he said Singapore has decided to vote against the draft resolution as a whole.
The representative of Pakistan said he will vote against the draft resolution as amended because the text is still deeply flawed and imbalanced.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago noted that capital punishment remains part of domestic legal framework, for murder and treason. The death penalty is primarily associated with the crime of murder and safeguards are in place to ensure due process prior to its use, she said, noting that Trinidad and Tobago will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of Canada, also speaking for Australia, opposed the use of the death penalty in all cases, everywhere, stressing that every human being has the inherent right to life. She expressed regret that the amendment was approved. However, given the importance of the draft resolution, she will vote in its favour.
The representative of Lebanon, expressing support for the draft resolution, said that since 2004, Lebanon has had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty.
The representative of the United States stressed that her delegation cannot agree with a moratorium on or abolition of the death penalty. Noting that it is up to each State to determine its position on this issue, she said the United States will vote “no” on the draft resolution.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, raising concerns that the first part of his statement was not interpreted correctly, said he sent his remarks to the translation centre via email yesterday.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said his delegation will support the revised draft resolution.
The representative of Nigeria said the amendment seeks to provide a proper focus for the draft resolution. While Nigeria will abstain from voting, this does not contradict its position of always seeking to maintain a “middle-of-the-road approach” to issues such as the one under consideration today.
The Committee then voted to approve draft resolution “L.41” as amended, with 120 votes in favour, to 39 against, with 24 abstentions.
The representative of Japan said that in the national legal system, the death penalty is applied exclusively to the most serious crimes. It is not imposed on persons under 18 years old or pregnant women. It is applied in accordance with due process and in a rigid, careful manner.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said she voted in favour of the draft resolution, adding that there have been no executions in the last 23 years in the Republic of Korea. Questions around abolishment of the death penalty concern the fundamentals of a State’s criminal punishment system, she observed.
The representative of India explained that his country imposes the death penalty only “in the rarest or rare cases”, for crimes so heinous that they shock society. Laws have specific provisions for juvenile offenders, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups, while the President has the power to suspend a death penalty sentence. As the draft resolution fails to recognize the principle of sovereignty and contradicts India’s statutory laws, he strongly supported the amendment tabled by Singapore.
The representative of Egypt, signalling his vote against the draft resolution, said his country reserves the death penalty only for the most serious crimes and by competent a court of law. “There is no international consensus that the death penalty should be abolished,” he said, noting that it is a fundamental component of many judicial systems. “No country should impose its views on death penalty on other States,” he asserted, drawing attention to the rights of victims.
The representative of Germany, speaking for the European Union, said there is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty’s deterrent value. However, the damage it causes is irreparable. The draft resolution clearly states that the question of death penalty is guided by United Nations principles, including sovereignty, he said, rejecting the amendment.
The representative of Viet Nam said the death penalty serves to deter and prevent the most serious crimes. Welcoming the amendment presented by Singapore, she said that in Viet Nam, the death penalty is restricted to a small number of most serious crimes, with exceptions made for pregnant and nursing women, juveniles and persons aged 75 and older.
An observer for the Holy See opposed the death penalty as “an attack on the dignity of every person”. Human dignity should never be lost, not even after the commitment of a crime. “Do not definitely deprive the guilty of the possibility of a second chance,” he cautioned, calling for complete abolition of this form of punishment.
The representative of Indonesia said her country abstained from the vote, drawing attention to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which recognizes the legality of applying the death penalty. Article 6, paragraph 2, stipulates that in countries that have abolished death penalty, the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes, in accordance with the law applicable to the commission of such crime. Today’s draft resolution, thus, “falls short of advocating the abolishment of the death penalty,” he stressed.
The representative of New Zealand, speaking also for several other countries, opposed the death penalty in all circumstances, as it contravenes human rights and is not an effective means of deterrence. “There is always the possibility of a judicial mistake,” she warned, welcoming the adoption of General Comment 36 on the right to life, which reflects the growing consensus that the death penalty is not a valid punishment and takes a pro-abolitionist stance on it. General Comment 36 states that Article 6, paragraph 6, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reaffirms that State parties that are not yet abolitionists should be on an irrevocable path towards a complete eradication of the death penalty, she asserted.
Statement by the representative of Qatar was inaudible, due to a technical difficulty.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Strengthening and promoting effective measures and international cooperation on organ donation and transplantation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs” (document A/C.3/75/L.5).
The representative of Guatemala, introducing the draft, said that in light of the pandemic, the text constitutes a technical adjustment to the resolution adopted following the Assembly’s seventy-third session. Tackling the issue of organ donation and trafficking in human organs requires a multidisciplinary approach. It must be addressed on three fronts: human rights, health and criminal justice. “Only this way can we look at national policies and frameworks that can effectively combat such crimes,” he stressed. He called on the United Nations to continue examining the issue, so that States can develop their own systems to address it in an orderly and ethical manner. He welcomed the World Health Organization (WHO) Task Force on Donation and Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues, whose work and advice will be crucial. More altruism and transparency will help to address the problem, he added.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.5”, without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would urge Member States to prevent and combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs, and to uphold accountability through such measures as preventing and investigating, prosecuting and punishing such trafficking. It would urge Member States that have not yet done so to ratify or accede to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
By other terms, the Assembly would urge States parties to those instruments to implement them fully and effectively, and request the World Health Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the OHCHR to continue to provide guidelines to Member States for developing orderly, ethical and acceptable programmes for the acquisition and transplantation of human organs for therapeutic purposes.
The representative of the United States said her country dissociates from portions of the text referring to WHO, from which it has withdrawn. Further, it dissociates from operative paragraph 10 a), 10 b) and 10 c), as it is not able to protect the anonymity of the victims of trafficking for the purpose of organ removal, who are participating in a crime, and in the black-market industry, broadly.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled, “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity” (document A/C.3/75/L.8/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Italy, introducing the draft, said that after four rounds of informal consultations conducted by virtual means, a consolidated and balanced text has been achieved that builds on the 2019 resolution and adds important developments. She outlined her expectation that it will be approved by consensus.
The Committee then approved “L.8/Rev.1” by consensus.
By its terms, the Assembly would call Member States to consider the Doha Declaration on Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice into the Wider United Nations Agenda to Address Social and Economic Challenges and to Promote the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, and Public Participation, when formulating legislation and policy directives.
By other terms, it would call on Member States to address the threat posed by radicalization to terrorism in prisons, and on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to support Member States in this regard, along in coordination with the Office of Counter-Terrorism and the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed his disappointment at the lack of reference to the Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, known as the “Luxembourg Guidelines”. Use of the term “child pornography” is problematic, he said, noting that the “Luxembourg Guidelines” recognize the harm done to victims.