Easy Ride for Pakistan in UN Rights Review

Press Release

Geneva, May 8, 2008 — Pakistan’s delicate handling by the UN Human Rights Council today underscored deep flaws in a new procedure that many hoped would prove the exception to a disappointing two years of attempted reforms, said UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO that monitors the world body.

“Instead of asking serious questions about Pakistan’s abysmal human rights record, including violations of torture, cruel and unusual punishment, and violence against women, we saw the Cuban, Saudi and Palestinian ambassadors, and many other allies, showering it with praise,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

“Pakistan’s failure to respect human rights at home is matched by its voting record at the UN in opposition to mechanisms that protect individual rights. It was Pakistan that led the recent move to gut the freedom of expression mandate of its original meaning, turning it into a weapon for states against individuals who ‘abuse’ their liberties.”

Pakistan is currently lobbying to renew its seat on the 47-nation council, in elections to be held in the UN General Assembly on May 21. UN Watch and Freedom House, another pro-democracy organization, released a report this week that found Pakistan to be “not qualified” for council membership.

Today’s praise for Pakistan included:

  • Cuba: “Since [Pakistan’s] independence they have been victim to centuries of colonialism. Poverty and terrorism are only some of the problems the noble people have been submitted to during more than 60 years of independence. The status of women, as well as advancements in health should be commended…”
  • Saudi Arabia praised Pakistan’s efforts within the Human Rights Council and its support for human rights.
  • Palestine: “Pakistan is creating a piece of art inspired by its own heritage… What is more modern than being a nuclear power? … What is more modern than having a woman as a key member of parliament?”
  • Indonesia praised Pakistan’s “zero tolerance policy for violence against women.”
  • Malaysia commended Pakistan’s “leadership of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the Human Rights Council, and their constant defence of human rights across the world.”
  • South Africa praised Pakistan’s “factual report.”
  • Zimbabwe, Sudan, Egypt, Iran and Sri Lanka also praised Pakistan’s leadership of the Islamic states on the council. Sudan praised Pakistan for causing the council to address “defamation of religion.”
  • Venezuela congratulated Pakistan for allegedly fulfilling its pledges during its 2006 bid for council membership.

Canada, however, asked Pakistan a series of tough questions, on violence against women, restrictions against the Ahmadi religion and other minorities, violations of human rights in the name of counter-terrorism, death penalty laws for “defamation of the name of the prophet,” and threats against human rights defenders.

In addition, several other Western countries posed queries, albeit in soft and diplomatic tones, including Belgium, France, Portugal, the U.K., Switzerland and Slovenia. Many made a point of referring to NGO submissions when discussing alleged violations.


To see full video archive of debate on Pakistan, click here.

UN Watch