Yearbook of the United Nations, 2008. Part 2, Human Rights. Chapter 3, Human rights country situations
In 2008, human rights situations of concern in Member States, particularly regarding alleged violations and how best to assist and guide Governments and national institutions in combating them, were addressed by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, and by special rapporteurs, the Secretary-General's special representatives and independent experts appointed to examine those situations. In Myanmar, the human rights situation remained grave despite some improvements as a result of political developments, according to the Special Rapporteur. In February, a draft Constitution was finalized—the fourth step in the Government's seven-step road map to democracy—and a referendum on its adoption was held on 10 May. The lack of participation in the drafting process, the small degree of transparency, the limited public knowledge about its contents, and the conditions under which the referendum was held all raised concerns from a human rights perspective. In addition, a large number of opposition leaders remained in detention. The situation of the National League for Democracy General Secretary, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was a matter of concern as the Government, in May, extended her house arrest with no new evidence against her. In the wake of Cyclone Nargis, the Secretary-General visited Myanmar on 22 and 23 May. Following his discussions with Government officials, some access for international aid workers was granted. In June, the Human Rights Council called on the Government to implement commitments it had made to the Secretary-General on granting access by relief workers to those in need. The protection of human rights in the Sudan remained challenging. There were continued violations of the freedoms of expression and association that were of particular concern as the country prepared for elections in 2009. Gross violations of human rights continued to be perpetrated in the Darfur region. The Special Rapporteur said that in general, the human rights situation remained grim and violations continued to be committed by all parties. Some progress had been made in implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and by July, the National Assembly had passed 59 new bills, including acts on the armed forces, criminal procedure, elections, the police and political parties. Overall, the human rights legal and institutional framework remained weak. In September, the Council acknowledged the progress made in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the steps taken by the Government to strengthen the human rights legal and institutional framework, principally in law reform. It expressed concern at the overall human rights situation and called on the Government to accelerate implementation of the Agreement, to establish the remaining commissions, in particular the national human rights commission, and to intensify efforts for promoting and protecting human rights. The Special Rapporteur reported that the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remained grave in 2008. In addition to systematic human rights violations, the country was enduring an economic crisis characterized by rampant and chronic shortages of food. Civil and political rights were severely constrained due to the repression imposed by the regime, coupled with intimidation and an extensive informant system, creating insecurity among the population. A new development during the year was the resumption of talks between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Japan on abducted Japanese nationals, aimed at reopening investigations on unresolved cases. The food shortages became more evident as the year progressed, with reports that millions of people were facing severe deprivations. A new agreement was reached between the authorities and the World Food Programme to assist 6.5 million people, whereby the Programme was granted access to households and warehouses that had previously been inaccessible. The Human Rights Council held its sixth special session (23–24 January) on the human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and its eighth special session (28 November and 1 December) on the human rights situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Also during the year, the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported on the efforts of her Office to strengthen country engagements, especially through increased activities of field representatives as the main means for promoting human rights and reducing violations. The Council, its special procedures and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights strengthened country engagements through advisory services, technical cooperation and monitoring activities as a means of advancing international human rights principles and preventing violations in several countries, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Cyprus, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sierra Leone, Somalia and the Sudan. For its part, the General Assembly took action on the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Georgia, Iran and Myanmar.
Yearbook of the United Nations, 2008. v. 62; Vol. 62
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