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U.N. human rights panel refuses to censure China

Cuba, Yugoslavia and Iraq rapped; Nigeria rewarded

April 23, 1999
Web posted at: 5:27 p.m. EDT (2127 GMT)
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U.S. pushes motion against China

Cuba censure narrowly passes

Myanmar, Iran also criticized


GENEVA (CNN) -- The U.N. Human Rights Commission decided Friday not to condemn China for its human rights record, but it narrowly approved a measure hitting Cuba for "continued oppression" and calling on the Havana regime to release political prisoners.

The 53-member commission also condemned "horrendous and ongoing war crimes" against ethnic Albanians by Yugoslav forces in Kosovo and "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights" by Iraq.

But citing Nigeria's recent steps toward democracy, including the release of political prisoners, the commission agreed to end its investigation into human rights abuses in Africa's largest nation.

U.S. pushes motion against China

The United States and Poland had put forward the motion criticizing China's human rights record, including "increased restrictions on the exercise of cultural, religious and other freedoms of Tibetans." But the commission voted 22-to-17, with 14 abstentions, not to take up the motion.

China has escaped Western attempts to censure it at the U.N. body every year since 1990, the first session of the commission following the student killings at Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Harold Hongju Koh said the United States was "deeply disappointed" at the outcome. He said his government had "sponsored the resolution as part of our principled, purposeful policy of engagement with China."

The Chinese delegation countered that the United States was pushing its motion purely out of domestic political concerns and accused the Americans of trying to derail reform in China.

Last year, the United States had suspended its annual effort to get the U.N. commission to criticize China but put forward a motion this year following reports of a recent crackdown on dissent by China's communist government.

Cuba censure narrowly passes

The motion to criticize Cuba's human rights record passed 21-20, with 12 abstentions. Given the closeness of the vote, Cuban officials claimed a "moral victory."

Last year, a similar motion criticizing the government of President Fidel Castro, put forward by the United States, failed to pass. This year, the United States took a back seat, letting the Czech Republic and Poland sponsor the measure.

Regarding Yugoslavia, the commission voted 46-to-1 in favor of a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning "the grave, horrendous and ongoing war crimes and abuses of human rights in Kosovo," including "the systematic targeting of the civilian population of Kosovo by Serbian forces."

Russia cast the only no vote, while six countries, including China and India, abstained.

The resolution also condemned human rights abuses by the Kosovo Liberation Army, which is fighting for the independence of the disputed Yugoslav province. It also called on Yugoslavia to withdraw military forces from Kosovo.

Myanmar, Iran also criticized

The U.N. commission also approved a resolution put forward by the European Union deploring government oppression in Myanmar, the Asian country also known as Burma.

The EU proposal criticized numerous human rights violations, including "extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, arbitrary seizure of land and property" and the "widespread use of forced labor."

Myanmar's delegation denounced the EU text as "a litany of unproven false allegations."

And while welcoming a "more open debate" on human rights issues in Iran, the commission approved a resolution expressing concern about "continuing violations" of human rights in the Islamic republic, including a high number of executions, the use of torture and discrimination against the Baha'i and other religious minorities.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

©Copyright 1999, CNN
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