UN Human Rights Council Session Ends Disappointingly
The UN Human Rights Council today concluded another session in which it failed to address the vast majority of human rights abuses occurring around the globe. It ignored such serious situations as repression in Burma and North Korea, denial of political rights in China, restrictions on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, and even the violent crackdown on opposition leaders in Zimbabwe that took place as the Council met. There had been talk that Western members would seek resolutions on Burma, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka, but none was ever tabled. A majority of Council members even decided to discontinue the body’s confidential discussions of violations in Iran and Uzbekistan.
The Council did address the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, but it could only muster a meekly-worded resolution that failed to condemn, or even to cite, the Sudanese government or any other party to the conflict for abuses. The resolution merely ‘express[ed] deep concern” about violations in Darfur without attributing them to anyone. Apparently, the human rights violations there are occurring all by themselves. An earlier European Union draft had the words “including attacks by rebel and government forces,” but that reference was dropped to achieve consensus. The resolution also defers to Sudan by expressing regret that the Coucil’s expert assessment mission, led by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, “could not visit Darfur,” obscuring that it was the Khartoum government that denied them entry.
The Wiliams assessment team, which went to Ethopia and the Chad/Darfur border, did present its report at this session. However, the Council, which is dominated by Sudan’s allies in the African and Islamic groups, did not formally adopt the Williams report or call for the implementation of its numerous and specific recommendations, but rather simply “took note” of it. Instead, the Council established yet another expert group to “work with the government of Sudan” to promote the implementation of unspecified “relevant” UN recommendations on improving the situation in Darfur,”taking into account the needs of the Sudan in this regard,” and to make yet another report to the Council at its next session.
In its nine months of existence, the Council has condemned only one country in the entire world for human rights violations: Israel. At this session, the Council passed yet another resolution–its ninth–against the Jewish state.
The Council also adopted, over the objections and abstentions of nearly half of its members, an Islamic Group-sponsored resolution against “defamation of religions,” an attempt to suppress perceived offenses against Islam and even to justify violent reactions thereto. Not only does the resolution refer to Islam alone among the world’s religions, it is inconsistent with free speech protections and with the fundamental principle that international human rights law is about protecting individuals, not religions.
Other actions included a majority of the Council voting to adopt a resolution, sponsored by China, on “strengthening the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.” In an Orwellian twist on its name, however, this resolution in fact seeks to impede the effectiveness of the UN’s professional human rights office, including by making geographic balance preeminent in its hiring decisions.
All in all, it has been a disappointing–but unfortunately, all too predictable–session. Lengthier analysis of the session will be available on our website, www.unwatch.org, in the coming weeks.