Issue 192: U.N. Downgrades Scrutiny of Sudan * Iran Says “Chastity” Prevents Rape

Update: The U.S. joined the U.N. Human Rights Council today for the first time. More than half of the 2009-2010 council members — 25 out of 47 — fail to meet basic democracy standards. Can the U.S. effect change? Can a majority be found to pass resolutions that hold the worst abusers accountable for violations? Our recent blog postings below on the failed Sri Lanka session suggest the answer is no. But yesterday’s qualified victory regarding Sudan holds out some hope. See below for blog postings on Iran’s blaming of “unchaste” women, UN Watch in the News, and more…

Latest: U.N. Rights Council Renews But Downgrades Mandate on Sudan

GENEVA, June 18, 2009 — We welcome the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 20-18 vote today renewing the mandate of its investigator into abuses in Sudan, but regret that her rank was downgraded in order to win support from non-Western countries.

It was a small but rare victory today at the council, where for a change the supporters of human rights outnumbered the spoilers, with Sudan and its allies in the African and Arab blocs, as well as Russia and China, narrowly defeated.

Those who supported keeping close scutiny of abuses in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Zambia.

Opposing continued scrutiny of Sudan’s human rights violations were Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

Angola, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Nicaragua, and Senegal all abstained.

It’s significant that Mauritius and Zambia were willing to make a rare break with the African group in supporting the resolution. The U.S. apparently played a key role in brokering the necessary compromise.

Still, when Washington joins the council tomorrow as a member for the first time, it will face a difficult challenge in fighting the entrenched practice of bloc voting, which abusers have used to shield each other and to erode the council’s mechanisms of human rights scrutiny.

Then again, it’s not the first time we’ve seen such cross-over votes on Sudan resolutions. It’s still far from clear whether the Obama administration will be able to chip away at the spoilers’ automatic majority on most other key votes.

We note with concern that today’s resolution downgraded the title of Sima Samar from “Special Rapporteur” — a U.N. term that implies there is a grave situation requiring investigation — to the milder “Independent Expert,” which, in U.N. code, effectively minimizes the plight of millions of victims suffering today in Darfur. According to Geneva diplomats, the demotion was a compromise needed to win votes from countries that normally hesitate to criticize their peers.


 From the UN Watch blog:


UN Watch in the News

“…Despite the call by UN rights officials for an international inquiry into possible war crimes, the proposal instead asks Sri Lanka to investigate itself — it’s a joke…” UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer quoted in S. Gardaz, “UN rights council divided over Sri Lanka,” Agence France Presse, May 26, 2009. Also published in Daily Star (Lebanon), Mail and Guardian (South Africa), Tehran Times (Iran).  

“…Sri Lanka does not deserve to be praised, but rather condemned for blocking humanitarian emergency relief to thousands, (and) creating conditions leading to the spread of diseases…” — UN Watch quoted in “‘Don’t back resolution by Sri Lanka,'” New Straits Times (Malaysia), May 24, 2009.  

“…In March, 2007, the Montreal-born Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, gave a brilliantly pointed speech to the council, arguing that it ignores atrocities all over the world, many committed by its members, while concentrating on Israel…” R. Fulford, “The UN speaks, and the world listens. Are we nuts?” National Post, May 23, 2009.  

“…Sri Lanka does not deserve to be praised, but rather condemned for blocking humanitarian emergency relief to thousands, (and) creating conditions leading to the spread of diseases…” UN Watch quoted in S. Nebehay, “Sri Lanka seeks to deflect U.N. rights scrutiny,”  Reuters, May 22, 2009. More…

“…Así, las ONG Freedom House y UN Watch recordaron en un informe divulgado en los días previos a la votación que las violaciones de los derechos humanos cometidas por los Gobiernos de Azerbaiyán, Camerún, China, Cuba, Yibuti, Rusia y Arabia Saudí les deberían convertir en inelegibles para un órgano que vela por los derechos fundamentales...” — “EEUU entra al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de ONU con intención de reformarlo,” EFE, May 13, 2009. More…          

“…A report released early this month by two Western rights groups — Freedom House and UN Watch — indicated that nearly two-thirds of the 20 countries which ran for seats on the UN rights panel ‘either have poor or questionable human rights records’…” G. Aziakou, “US, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia elected to UN rights panel,” Agence France Presse, May 12, 2009. More…

“…Electing these countries to the Council is like ‘choosing the foxes to guard the chickens,’ wrote UN Watch head Hillel Neuer…” “Critics frown as Obama flips Bush-era human rights stance,” Deutsche Welle, May 9, 2009.  “…Everyone here in Geneva sees this as targeted payback for Mr. Littman’s outspoken criticism of Islamic states’ record on human rights, a voting bloc that dominates the Human Rights Council…” — UN Watch quoted in S. Edwards, “UN sanctions human-rights activist,”Canwest, May 8, 2009. Published in the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal. More…

“…Consider the apt assessment of Hillel Neuer, a Montrealer who is executive director of monitoring group UN Watch: The Geneva conference “is the opposite of what it claims to be — it’s the world’s most intolerant regimes seeking to indict the world’s most tolerant democracies.” — “Canada right to skip UN hatefest,” Leader Post, Apr. 24, 2009. Also published in Edmonton Journal. More… 

“…UN Watch, the invaluable NGO, helped to host the event, which included presentations by Harvard legal scholar Alan Dershowitz and legendary soviet prison camp survivor Natan Sharansky…” — P. Poilievre, “Canada vindicated at Durban II,” National Post, Apr. 28, 2009.

“…’The vision had been that the council would be a voice for victims,’ said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, a Montreal native. ‘But it is now in a state of crisis’…” — S. Edwards, “Oppressors running for UN rights council: Groups,” Canwest, May 5, 2009. Also published in the Calgary Herald.

“…However, some groups are calling on UN members to block certain countries from getting a seat on the council. Freedom House and UN Watch say some of the countries seeking membership have poor or questionable human rights records…” — J. DeCapua, “UN Human Rights Council candidates raise concerns,” Voice of America, May 5, 2009. More…

“…This engagement is not to smile and make nice — it’s to get in there and to slam the Chinese for their egregious violations…”— UN Watchquoted in J. Abrams, “U.S. May Find Lonely Place on U.N. Human Rights Council,” Fox News, May 11, 2009. More… 

“…While I get the argument and very much understood the thinking of not legitimizing such a hijacked body, the reality is it continued, stayed on and it only got worse…” — UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer quoted in P. Starr, “U.S. Joining Human Rights Abusers on U.N. Human Rights Council,” CNS News, May 12, 2009. More…

“…Hillel Neuer of Geneva-based group UN Watch said the presence of China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia on the council would result in ‘the foxes guarding the chickens.’ He said the council’s credibility was at stake over its failure to hold an emergency session over the bloody fighting in Sri Lanka…” — P. Worsnip, “U.S. elected to U.N. rights council for first time,”  Reuters, May 12, 2009. Published in the Washington Post.

“…One third of the countries vying for seats have poor human rights records that should disqualify them for the job, according to a recent report by Freedom House and UN Watch…” K. Saloomey, “Debate rages over UN rights council,” Al Jazeera, May 12, 2009.

وفي حديث مع موقعنا رأى هيليل سي. نوير، المدير التنفيذي لمنظمة ‘يو ان ووتش’ غير الحكومية، أن واشنطن ستمثل تياراً معارضاً للسياسة المتبعة حتى الآن داخل المجلس، لكنه شكك في إمكانية نجاحها في إبراز قضايا حقيقية تهم الأشخاص الذين تتعرض حقوقهم للانتهاك، أو قضايا مثل حرية التعبير ومنح المرأة السعودية حق الانتخاب. ويعود السبب في ذلك برأيه إلى سيطرة الدول الأخرى على
 “المجلس.” ه. إسماعيل, “تجدد الجدل حول دور مجلس حقوق الإنسان مع انضمام الولايات المتحدة إلى عضويته
Deutsche Welle (Arabic), May 12, 2009.

“…The dream of Eleanor Roosevelt is ever more distant on a day that wrongly elevates the Chinese Communist Party, Havana and the House of Saud…” — UN Watch quoted in P. Goodenough, “China Gets The Same Number of Votes As the U.S. on the U.N.’s Human Rights Council,” CNS News, May 13, 2009.

“…UN Watch’s executive director Hillel Neuer said the US presence would make no difference unless it acts vigorously to end the assault on some of the most obvious human rights principles such as freedom of speech and religion…” — “US membership in UN Human Rights Council raises concerns,”Deutsche Presse-Agentur, May 14, 2009. More…

“…Des ONG telles que UN Watch qualifie ce projet de résolution de «plaisanterie»…” S. Bussard, “Difficile session spéciale du Conseil des droits de l’homme,” Le Temps, May 26, 2009. More…

In April and May, major media around the world—including Reuters, The Washington Post, and Agence-France Presse—continued to turn to UN Watch as the leading authority on how the U.N. addresses human rights. UN Watch commentary, speeches and calls for action were quoted in regard to the U.S. decision to join the troubled UN Human Rights Council; on the council’s re-election of serial human rights abusers like China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia; and concerning the complete failure of the recent emergency session on Sri Lanka, where the council ended up praising the government, which killed up to 20,000 civilains, instead of censuring it. The pro-democracy message of UN Watch was also carried extensively through the major events we organized surrounding the Durban II conference. For the latest on the council’s current session—where the U.N. will consider ending its scrutiny of Sudan’s genocide, and where Islamic states are pressuring the world body to enforce global censorship concerning religion—see our continually updated blog.

UN Watch

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