Reaction by UN Watch and MPs worldwide
GENEVA, Nov. 12 — Today the UN General Assembly elected egregious human rights abusers China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Cuba, and Vietnam to the UN Human Rights Council, dealing a severe blow to the credibility and efficacy of a body that was supposed to improve on its discredited predecessor. (See below for reactions from parliamentarians.)
“This is a black day for human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental human rights group.
“Today the UN sent a message that politics trumps human rights, and it let down millions of victims worldwide who look to the world body for protection.”
According to a comprehensive report by UN Watch, the new Council member states perpetrate gross and systematic human rights abuses, including massive violations of the freedoms of speech, press, religion, and assembly. They were also found to oppose UN resolutions speaking out for victims of human rights abuses in Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
Nevertheless, these states were elected today despite the appeal of a coalition of EU lawmakers and human rights groups organized by UN Watch. Signatories included European Parliament Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, Member of Canadian Parliament Irwin Cotler, and Secretary General of the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy Matyas Eörsi. (See their statements below.)
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE COUNCIL
Today’s election results not only cast a dark shadow on the future of the Human Rights Council but also recall its recent past. In 2006, the Council was created to replace its morally corrupt predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, which was criticized by former Secretary General Kofi Annan for its politicization and “declining credibility.”
Neuer said: “Despite the much-vaunted 2006 reform – which scrapped the discredited human rights commission and created a new and supposedly improved council — today’s election of the world’s worst human rights abusers means that we are back to square one. Instead of reform, we have regression.”
Neuer expects the following negative impacts:
• The Council will continue to turn a blind eye to egregious abuses by violators like China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, which have never been addressed in any UN resolution.
• Mechanisms meant to help victims will be hijacked by politicization and selectivity.
• The core principles of individual human rights will be subverted by concepts that increase power for governments.
REACTIONS OF PARLIAMENTARIANS
Parliamentary leaders who signed UN Watch’s appeal to oppose several countries’ HRC bids issued the following statements in response to today’s election outcome:
Irwin Cotler, MP
Member of Canadian Parliament, Liberal Party Critic for Rights & Freedoms, International Justice
Former Justice Minister & Attorney General
“The election of seven of the world’s worst human rights violators to the United Nations Human Rights Council is an assault on the UNHCR’s mandate to ‘uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.’ Indeed, the election of states – all designated as “Not Free” by Freedom House in its 2013 ‘Freedom in the World’ Report -mocks the struggle for human rights, betrays its victims, and validates the on-going violations of these rights in the name of the UN. The time is long overdue to sound the alarm and restore the UNHRC to its founding principle and ideals.”
Secretary General of the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy, former MP, Hungary
“The credibility of the UN already suffered serious damage when its Human Rights Committee was chaired by tyrant Gaddafi’s Libya. Countries disobeying human rights at home cannot be expected to obey human rights in the international arena. When I campaign against these countries to participate in the work of the Human Rights Council, I am fighting for the credibility of the UN.”
Edward McMillan-Scott, MEP
European Parliament Vice-President for Human Rights & Democracy
“Allowing China to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council calls into question the Council’s credibility. China’s human rights record is well-documented. Numerous reports by the UN itself have highlighted degrading and inhumane treatment that is routine in China: forcible abortions, religious persecution, the oppression of minorities, etc. Former UN Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak stated that the use of torture in China is “widespread”, and any attempts to discuss individual cases with the Chinese regime – such as that of disappeared but imprisoned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng – are met with defiance, such as through the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue or any other such procedure.”