Rights group UN Watch urges Ban Ki-moon and rights chief Pillay to speak out
GENEVA, August 7 – The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch condemned the candidacy of Omar Al-Bashir’s Sudanese regime, despite the International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide, for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, as just now confirmed by a United Nations website.
“Electing Sudan to the international community’s highest human body is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
In July, UN Watch had called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU’s Catherine Ashton to denounce and fight against Sudan’s then-reported candidacy.
“Regrettably, no responses were received,” said Neuer. “It’s still not too late, however, and we continue to urge them to speak out for basic morality and common sense at the United Nations.”
UN Watch already heads an international campaign of MPs and human rights groups opposing the candidacies of Venezuela and Pakistan. Last month, the U.S. failed to get the council to pass a condemnation of what it said was a Syrian candidacy for 2014.
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 like to work. Shockingly, the fact is that Sudan’s election is now a virtual certainty.”
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 and when Al-Bashir’s Sudanese regime wins a seat,” said Neuer. “The U.N. should recall that the reputation of the old human rights commission never recovered it made Libya its chair in 2003.”
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.”