GENEVA, July 12 – The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch urged United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to urgently speak out against the African-backed bid by Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Last week, the U.S. failed to get the council to pass a condemnation of what it said was a Syrian candidacy for 2014.
UN Watch, which headed the World NGO Summit on Darfur, also called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU’s Catherine Ashton to denounce and fight against Sudan’s candidacy.
“Electing Sudan to the U.N. body mandated to promote and protect human rights worldwide is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
The U.N.’s African group of states agreed behind closed doors to endorse the candidacies of Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Sudan. Because Africa has arranged for five countries to run for the same amount of allotted seats, Sudan’s election is virtually assured.
“Technically,” said Neuer, “Sudan must still receive an absolute majority of 97 affirmative country votes in the U.N. General Assembly’s November election for new human rights council members. However, in the history of these ballots, names presented on a closed slate have never been rejected. It’s just the way U.N. ambassadors work. And the fact is that Sudan has been chosen to head various U.N. groupings, so its election to the UNHRC, however outrageous, is a real possibility.”
Neuer said that UN rights chief Navi Pillay, who hails from South Africa, could make a big difference by speaking out. “We need her to be the moral voice here, to urge other African countries to put their names forward, and to call for unequivocal opposition to Sudan’s scandalous bid. Her role is crucial.”
“Just a year after the human rights council sought to exorcise the ghosts of its past by suspending Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya — which infamously chaired the body in 2003, and was reelected a member in 2010 — it is now set to replace him with a tyrant wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court. For how long must we have the inmates running the asylum?”
“The U.N. and the cause of human rights will be severely damaged if Al-Bashir’s Sudanese regime wins a seat,” said Neuer.
UN Watch also called on the U.S. and the EU to lead a vigorous campaign to defeat Sudan’s candidacy, and to ensure there will be competition on the African slate of candidates.
“Last year, the democracies fought a successful campaign to defeat Syria, by persuading other countries to compete. Yet they said and did absolutely nothing in 2010 on Libya — perhaps due to lucrative oil and business deals — and Qaddafi won by a landslide. It’s vital this year that the US and the EU announce early that they are opposed to having the oppressive Sudanese regime of Al-Bashir Assad judging the world on human rights,” said Neuer.
Neuer said that Sudan clearly failed to meet the criteria of UNGA Resolution 60/251, which established the UN Human Rights Council in 2006. General Assembly members are obliged to elect states to the Council by “tak[ing] into account the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.” The resolution also provides that consideration ought to be given to whether the candidate can meet the obligations of Council membership, which include (a) to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and (b) to “fully cooperate with the Council.”