Geneva, Oct. 2, 2007 — UN Watch today welcomed the adoption by a UN Human Rights Council emergency session of a resolution “strongly deploring” the “violent repression of peaceful demonstrations” in Burma. However, “we were disappointed that the final text was watered down, which sends the wrong message to the murderers of innocent monks,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based organization. (See UN Watch speech to plenary below.)
The E.U.-authored text was softened several times in order to ensure that countries like China and Russia would join the consensus. The original text of “strongly condemns” was changed to “condemns,” and then weakened again to “strongly deplores.”
“We hope today’s session becomes more than an exception and sets a precedent for future council action on the full range of gross abuses occurring around the world,” said Neuer. “Regrettably, the record of the council thus far has been the opposite — to eliminate mechanisms of scrutiny for Cuba, Belarus, Iran, and others.”
Some countries chose to divert the session on human rights in Burma to other topics. The Islamic bloc, represented by Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan, said that “more innocent civilians have died in Palestine a few days ago in twenty four hours as a result of Israeli military action than in the whole of Myanmar“ but this “has not received the same degree of attention from the media or this Council.” (See full text at http://blog.unwatch.org/ ) Observers pointed out, however, that the council, since its founding in June 2006 until today, has in fact adopted 13 Islamic-sponsored condemnations of Israel but none against any other state.
“A political stranglehold has for too long prevented the council from helping human rights victims around the world,” said Neuer, “and it is regrettable that the Islamic bloc now seeks to hold the freedom of Aung San Su Kyi and the Buddhist monks hostage to their narrow and hardline agenda.”
In its statement to the plenary, the government of Myanmar (Burma) said the international media “blew the situation out of proportion” and accused the West of manipulating events in order to intervene. (See full text at http://blog.unwatch.org/ )
“The junta is trying to hide its massive crimes against innocent civilians, but the world knows the truth,” said Neuer. “The international community must warn the generals that there will be justice for their crimes.”
See below for full text of today’s UN Watch speech to plenary of the UN Human Rights Council.
What This Council Can Do For the People of Burma
Speech before UN Human Rights Council 5th Special Session
2 October 2007
Delivered by Leon Saltiel, Director of Communications, UN Watch
Thank you, Mr. President.
We gather here today to discuss the emergency situation in Burma. The military regime cloaks its acts — and its shame — behind an iron curtain, and so we have no exact numbers of what has gone on in the past week. But all of the smuggled reports confirm one thing: a great many have been arrested, a great many have been killed. We know that we are dealing with crimes against innocent civilians on a massive scale.
But what can this Human Rights Council do? This body has no power to send boots on the ground. It has no physical power whatsoever. One is reminded of the famous story told about Joseph Stalin. On being warned that persecution of Catholics would anger the Pope, the Soviet dictator reportedly replied: “The Pope? And how many divisions does he have?”
The brutal junta that rules Rangoon may well be looking at our emergency session and thinking the same thoughts.
Mr. President, they would be wrong.
History teaches us that a moral voice can move mountains. We learned this from Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday today is celebrated by the first UN International Day of Non-Violence. We learned this from Reverend Martin Luther King Junior, from Nelson Mandela, and indeed from Pope John Paul II, whose moral voice — armed only with truth and with principle — ultimately defeated the evils of Soviet totalitarianism.
Mr. President, we cannot send troops. But we can send a message.
And so today let us send a message to our brothers and sisters in Burma, who are suffering under the weight of oppression. Let us send a message, loud and clear, that we stand in awe of their heroic and peaceful challenge to the tyranny, brutality, and terror of their government. We stand in awe of the heroic Buddhist monks. We stand in awe of the heroic Aung San Su Kyi. We will never be silent until their shackles are broken, until they are free.
Let us send a message, also, to their wicked oppressors: When you trample the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, persecute the innocent, and murder your own people, the world will never forget your crimes. Let us send a message and a warning: Justice will come.
We have no boots, we have no weapons, we have no divisions. But faith in justice, in freedom, and in human dignity is stronger than any steel. Let this council do its part by adopting a firm resolution that will affirm this faith for the people of Burma.
Thank you, Mr. President.