As the UN Human Rights Council celebrates its 10th anniversary with endless self-congratulatory speeches, UN Watch will be reporting daily on the debates of the June 2016 session. Click here for UN Watch’s assessment of the council’s performance over the past decade.

Unwelcome Criticism

At today’s discussion on the UN expert’s report on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, a range of countries reacted angrily to the report’s frank criticism of their approach to free speech and public protest.

Cuba characterized the report as “distorted, manipulative, politicized and bereft of any objectivity on my country.” The delegate accused the UN expert of “groundless accusations concerning the working of political systems which, just because they don’t tally with his political point of view, have been tarred as undemocratic.”

Indonesia accused the expert of not having “enough knowledge or understanding of the country on which he reports.”

Egypt gave the Special Rapporteur a more sober telling off, saying “we believe that the focus of the Special Rapporteur should always be on his mandate, including in ensuring non-politicization, non-selectivity, impartiality, respect for cultural and religious diversity and particularities.”

Venezuela, meanwhile, “deplored” the content of the report and excoriated its author as “ignorant and not at all objective.”

Lies & Deceit

Cuba, where dissenters are jailed and dissidents ruthlessly silenced, insisted that “in Cuba, freedom of association and thought and speech are guaranteed in the constitution.” More than that, “they are reflected in policy which fosters the broadest political and public debate, exchange of opinion and consensus building.”

The delegate of Pakistan, meanwhile, assured the Council that “In Pakistan, peaceful assembly has been an integral part of our efforts to consolidate democracy.” She insisted that Pakistan fosters “the expression of all views, not only inside the parliament but outside it also.”

Freedom house ranks Pakistan as ‘not free’ with respect to media and internet usage.

Venezuela took the floor to proclaim that “Venezuela is absolutely free.”

Saudi Arabia told the Council that “the freedom of worship for non-Muslims in the Kingdom is guaranteed in practice. Freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Kingdom for all people, unless it infringes on national values.” That is, unless you insult Islam or call for free debate about Saudi Arabia’s political system.


Additional resources:

Hillel Neuer testifies at United States Congress

Previous blog posts from the Human Rights Council

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