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November 23, 2008

UN committee slams Myanmar, N Korea for rights abuses
A key U.N. committee criticized Myanmar and North Korea on their human rights records Friday, and also targeted Iran despite its efforts to block the vote, reported the Associated Press.

Separate resolutions approved by the General Assembly's human rights committee expressed serious concern at accusations of abuse including attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar, public executions in North Korea, and torture, flogging and amputations in Iran.

Iran tried to stop the committee from taking up the draft resolution assailing its record, but lost by 10 votes — a margin the United States called a major victory.

The committee approved the resolution expressing "deep concern at serious human rights violations" in Iran by a vote of 70 to 51, with 60 abstentions.

The resolutions now go to the 192-member General Assembly for final votes, expected next month. Though resolutions approved by the full assembly are not legally binding, they carry moral weight and reflect the majority view of world opinion.

"These resolutions put the spotlight on the three countries where there is very widespread abuse of human rights," Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers charged.

"The growing support for these resolutions shows increasing levels of concern in the world about human rights as we move towards the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights."

A resolution strongly condemning "the ongoing systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights" in Myanmar was approved by a vote of 89 to 29 with 63 abstentions.

It expressed "grave concern" at the continuing practice of enforced disappearances, sexual violence including rape, the extension of the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, "as well as the high and increasing number of political prisoners."

The resolution expressing "very serious concern" at rights violations in North Korea got the highest vote, winning approval by 95 to 24 with 62 abstentions. It criticized the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, the "all-pervasive and severe restrictions" on freedom of thought and religion, and violations of workers' rights.

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