Govt does ‘about-turn’ on its human rights defenders position

Govt says it will support the resolution when the matter is referred to the UN General Assembly.

FILE. The Department of International Relations on Sunday confirmed that the country does in fact support the resolution despite initial concerns. Picture: Saps

PRETORIA - The South African government appears to have done an about-turn on its position on the United Nations resolution on the protection of human rights defenders after voting against it last week, it now says it will support the resolution when the matter is referred to the General Assembly.

The Department of International Relations on Sunday confirmed that the country does in fact support the resolution despite initial concerns.

South Africa was among 54 countries who did not support the resolution.

Forty abstained from voting while 14 voted no, including Russia, China and Sudan.

International Relations says the Africa group of members' states had about 39 proposed amendments to the resolution following intense negotiations.

The department raised concerns around the definition of a human rights defender, the responsibilities placed on sovereign parliaments and issues of NGO funding.

It says the resolution's main sponsor introduced oral amendments at the last minute without informing South Africa.

These amendments rendered the country's concerns redundant.

Government says when the resolution is presented at the General Assembly in the next few days, South Africa will vote yes in support of it.