UN council calls for universal support for pact on economic and social rights

23 March 2007

The United Nations Human Rights Council today called on all remaining countries that have not signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to do so, and to ensure that those rights are implemented without discrimination of any kind.

In a resolution adopted without a vote during its session in Geneva, the Council urged all countries – whether they have signed and ratified the covenant or not – to secure those rights with the help of their national development policies and any forms of international assistance.

The resolution calls for particular care to be paid to any citizens or communities living in extreme poverty, and asks States to encourage civil society to play a greater role in decisions relating to all economic, social and cultural rights.

The 31-article ICESCR, which entered into force in January 1976, had 155 States Parties as of last week.

During its meeting today the Council also adopted a decision, again without a vote, commending the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for its work in developing the issue of transitional justice and human rights, and encouraging the Office to continue.

It also discussed reports on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Burundi and Myanmar.

In his report, Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation in the DPRK, said the country continued to violate human rights in a systematic and pervasive manner, carrying out torture, public executions and persecutions of dissidents, with ordinary citizens bearing the brunt of the abuses. Some recent legislation could be used to repress political dissent, he added. He also voiced regret that Pyongyang had refused to cooperate with him.

Responding, DPRK delegate Choe Myong Nam said Pyongyang categorically rejected the report and did not even accept Mr. Muntarbhorn’s mandate, describing it as politically motivated and unrelated to human rights.

Akich Okola, Independent Expert on the situation in Burundi, said food security remained a major problem in the small Central African nation, due mainly to overpopulation. Although the human rights situation is likely to improve following the signing of a ceasefire between the Government and rebels, he said the justice system was weak because of corruption, political interference, poor training and a lack of equipment.

Describing the report as a reflection of the real situation, Burundi’s representative Françoise Ngendahayo added that it was important to recognize that the Government had made significant progress in terms of its political will. Bujumbura has set up an independent human rights commission and enshrined many key rights under its national constitution.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation in Myanmar, expressed grave concern at the way fundamental freedoms of political opponents and human rights defenders had been criminalized by the Government. He noted the continuing house arrest of democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose detention has been extended for another 12 months, and the increased militarization in ethnic areas in the east of the country.

But Myanmar’s delegate U Nyunt Swe described Mr. Pinheiro’s report as essentially the same as the one delivered last year and said the Government had granted amnesty to more than 22,000 prisoners during the last two years, a sign of its commitment to national reconciliation.

 

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