Issue 159: UN Watch Rates Human Rights Council’s First Year, Opposes Election of Belarus

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At a briefing held at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Watch this week published a new report, Dawn of A New Era?, assessing the UN Human Rights Council and its year of reform.

Has the council met former Secretary-General Annan’s benchmarks for reform, eschewing the politicization and selectivity that so discredited its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, and electing members with solid records of human rights commitment?

Sadly, according to the detailed 44-page report, the answer is no. Council members are supposed to be elected based on their human rights records, yet the 47-nation body includes China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and other persistent violators. In upcoming elections next week (see below) it is expected to include even more.  The council is supposed to objectively and non-selectively protect human rights worldwide, yet has been paralyzed by its obsessive focus on Israel, the only country it has condemned, while ignoring the world’s worst abuses, in Burma, Libya, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.  It is supposed to strengthen the UN’s human rights mechanisms, yet it now threatens to erode the system and eliminate many of the independent investigators of abuses.

Features in the report:

  • List of council’s 20 key actions in 2006-2007
  • Scorecard rating the 47 countries on the council
  • Genocide test: naming the countries that shield Sudan’s atrocities in Darfur
  • Chart showing which countries speak out against world’s worst abuses

The report was presented at a luncheon at the UN co-sponsored by UN Watch and Freedom House, another human rights NGO, and was attended by diplomats, UN officials, academics, human rights activists and journalists.  Read the full report.

Feared Election Winners:  Angola, Belarus, Egypt, Qatar

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© UN Watch
Assistant executive director Elizabeth
Cassidy discussing UN Watch and
Freedom House’s joint report.

At the same event, UN Watch and Freedom House issued a joint assessment of the 15 candidates running for council seats in the election to be held next week. Each candidate was evaluated for its record of human rights protection at home, and for its voting record on human rights promotion at the UN.  Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, and Slovenia were found to be well qualified for council membership. Angola, Belarus, Egypt, and Qatar are not qualified. Candidates with questionable qualifications are Bolivia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and South Africa. Read the full joint assessment.

Video of Heritage Panel Presentation

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer also presented the report on the Human Rights Council at a panel discussion last week at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. Click for video (requires Windows Media Player), or read more.

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