Geneva, March 30, 2007 — UN Watch expressed disappointment that the UN Human Rights Council concluded its fourth session today without addressing the vast majority of human rights abuses occurring around the world.
The Council 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, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe, 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, two of the world’s most abusive states.
Particularly appalling is the Council’s treatment of the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Two weeks ago, the Council heard the report of its Darfur assessment team, led by Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, which found the government of Sudan responsible for orchestrating and participating in “large-scale international crimes in Darfur,” and also cited other parties to the conflict for gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The Council, however, could only agree on a meekly-worded resolution that failed to condemn, or even to cite, the Sudanese government or any other party for the abuses in Darfur. The Council, which is dominated by Sudan’s allies in the African and Islamic groups, did not even formally adopt the Williams report, but merely “took note” of it.
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.
“Adopting the Williams report was the Council’s best hope to redeem its shaky credibility,” said Executive Director Hillel Neuer. “Yet all that the Council could muster was a weak resolution merely ‘expressing deep concern’ about violations in Darfur without attributing those violations to anyone.” An earlier European Union draft would have added the words “including attacks by rebel and government forces,” but even that was too strong for Sudan’s allies in the Council. The resolution also defers to Sudan by expressing regret that the Williams mission “could not visit Darfur,” obscuring that it was the Khartoum government that denied them entry.
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.
In addition, a majority of the Council voted 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, 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.