BREAKING DEVELOPMENT: JORDAN PULLS OUT, CREATING ‘CLEAN SLATE’ FOR CHINA, SAUDI ARABIA & VIETNAM
GENEVA, November 7, 2013 – Top European lawmakers today called on their own governments to oppose China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and other “manifestly unworthy” countries running in next Tuesday’s election of 14 new member states to the UN’s 47-nation human rights council. See text below.
According to an exclusive report today by UN Watch, Jordan has pulled out of the race, which means that Asian group candidates China, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam no longer face any competition.
Today’s open appeal, organized by the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, was sent today by an international coalition of 30 MPs and human rights activists to all EU governments, as well as to EU foreign affairs commissioner Catherine Ashton.
Signatories include European Parliament Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, Elmar Brok, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who now heads the European Parliament’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) party.
Other legislators joining the appeal include Baroness Deech of the British House of Lords, Baroness Ludford of the European Parliament, Canadian MP and former justice minister Irwin Cotler, and Emanuelis Zingeris, Lithuanian MP and head of the global Parliamentary Forum for Democracy.
Diplomats had predicted some difficulty for the Saudi bid, with UN delegates still upset over Riyadh’s surprise rejection of its Security Council seat. Now with a closed slate, however, the Saudis are almost assured of winning a seat on the world body that holds primary responsibility over issues such as women’s rights and religious freedom.
As part of the opposition campaign, UN Watch together with Human Rights Foundation organized a press conference this past Monday at UN headquarters in New York, where they presented a comprehensive report detailing why no less than 12 of 16 candidates fail to meet the UN’s own basic criteria for membership on the human rights council.
The NGO event also featured passionate appeals from some of the world’s most famous human rights dissidents, including blind activist Chen Guangcheng from China, Rosa Maria Paya of Cuba, Ali Al-Ahmed of Saudi Arabia, and Masha Gessen of Russia. (Click here for quotes from the event; and click here for the speech of Chinese dissident Yang Jianli.)
In anticipation of the Nov. 12 elections, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer warns: “If the UN enables gross abusers to act as champions and global judges of human rights, it will be an insult to the political prisoners and other victims of those regimes. When the UN’s highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world’s victims suffer.
“China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens,” said Neuer, “and they consistently vote the wrong way on UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others.”
“For the UN to elect Saudi Arabia as a world judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac the fire chief,” said Neuer.
Appeal Against UNHRC Candidacies of Algeria, China,
Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam
As sent to all UN member states, 7 November 2013.
We, the undersigned members of parliament, human rights activists and non-governmental organizations, call on you to publicly oppose the candidacies of Algeria, China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, for seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council, elections for which will be held on November 12, 2013.
We urge you to take action to defeat these manifestly unworthy candidacies, which threaten to cast a shadow upon the reputation of the Council—and of the United Nations as a whole.
Candidates for the UN Human Rights Council, according to General Assembly Resolution 60/251, are supposed to be countries that “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
Yet it is widely recognized that Algeria, China, Cuba Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam fail to meet these basic membership criteria. They have poor if not abysmal records on human rights protection at home, and on human rights promotion at the UN.
Rather than giving these non-democratic governments influence over vital decision on human rights, we urge you to introduce resolutions at the United Nations to hold these nations accountable, and to condemn their gross and systematic human rights violations.
Silence is complacency. For the sake of millions of victims worldwide who need a credible and effective international human rights body, please do not be silent.
Edward McMillan-Scott, MEP
European Parliament Vice-President for Human Rights & Democracy
Elmar Brok, MEP
Chair of Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament
Guy Verhofstadt, MEP
Leader of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Former Prime Minister of Belgium
Member of the British House of Lords
Academic, lawyer, bioethicist, former Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford
Member of European Parliament, UK
Honourable Irwin Cotler, MP
Member of Canadian Parliament, Liberal Party Critic for Rights & Freedoms, International Justice
Former Justice Minister & Attorney General
Emanuelis Zingeris, MP
President of the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy, Lithuania
Secretary General of the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy, former MP, Hungary
Dr. Mantas Adoménas, MP
Michael Danby, MP
Egidijus Vareikis, MP
Member of the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan
Hans van Baalen
Member of the European Parliament, Netherlands
Member of European Parliament, Finland
United Nations Watch
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director
Human Rights Foundation
Thor Halvorssen, President
Initiatives for China
Yang Jianli, President
Council for a Community of Democracies
Robert LaGamma, President
The Gulf Institute
Mothers and Women against Repression, M.A.R. Por Cuba
Sylvia Iriondo, President
Do Hoang Diem, Chairman
Urgent Debate on Belarus: The United Nations Cannot Say It Didn’t Know Testimony before the UN Human Rights Council, delivered by UN Watch Executive Director