North Koreans attend an unveiling ceremony of two statues of former leaders Kim Jong-Il (R) and Kim Il-Sung (L)
North Koreans watch fireworks during an unveiling ceremony of two statues of former leaders Kim Jong-Il (R) and Kim Il-Sung (L) in Pyongyang in April 2012. A key UN committee on Tuesday passed resolutions condemning human rights abuses by North Korea, Iran and Syria amid growing Western pressure for action. © Pedro Ugarte - AFP/File
North Koreans attend an unveiling ceremony of two statues of former leaders Kim Jong-Il (R) and Kim Il-Sung (L)
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AFP
Last updated: November 27, 2012

UN committee slams North Korea and Iran on rights

A key UN committee on Tuesday passed resolutions condemning human rights abuses by North Korea, Iran and Syria amid growing Western pressure for action.

An annual vote on North Korea was passed by consensus for the first time, with not even close ally China voting against.

A larger number of countries than last year backed a resolution against Syria but a reduced majority passed a condemnation of Iran's human rights record at the UN General Assembly committee.

The resolution on North Korea, prepared by European nations, slammed the "systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights," in the tightly controlled Stalinist nation.

It highlighted the use of torture and prison camps and draconian restrictions on freedom of movement.

North Koreans can be executed for trying to flee the country, according to activists. And a UN special rapporteur on North Korea, former Indonesian foreign minister Marzuki Darusman, has estimated there are 150,000 to 200,000 people in North Korean prison camps.

A North Korean diplomat at the meeting, Kim Song, called the resolution "state political terrorism." He rejected all the allegations against his country.

China did not vote against but along with other allies such as Iran made it known that it opposed any resolution that concentrates on one country.

Norway's UN ambassador Geir Pedersen said the absence of votes against the resolution was a "big surprise."

Syria's isolation deepened with a resolution that attracted 10 more countries than last year, when it was put to the UN for the first time since an uprising started against President Bashar al-Assad.

A motion condemning "widespread and systematic gross violations" by Assad's government forces and allied militias was backed by 132 nations and opposed by 12 with 35 abstentions.

A similar condemnation of Iran was passed with 83 votes in favor, 31 against and 68 abstaining. Last year, 86 countries backed the resolution and 32 opposed it.

The resolution, again prepared by Western nations, hit out at torture and executions in Iran, "widespread" restrictions of freedom and "pervasive" violence against women.

Iran's UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said the resolution was unbalanced and contained 150 "unsubstantiated" allegations. China, Russia and Syria were among those who voted against.

All the resolutions passed by the General Assembly's Third Committee, which concentrates on human rights, are non-binding, but they are also the subject of fierce diplomatic lobbying.

The resolutions will go to a formal vote in the General Assembly in December where they should be easily passed.

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