UN makes mockery of its Human Rights Council

UN makes mockery of its Human Rights Council


“It’s logically absurd and morally obscene that the UN is about to elect to its top human rights body a regime that herded 1 million Uighurs into camps.”

Overview of the Human Rights Council one day after the U.S. announced their withdraw at the United Nations in Geneva, / (photo credit: DENIS BALIBOUSE/REUTERS)

The shameful charade of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council is continuing. Tomorrow, the UN is scheduled to hold elections for the 47-state membership of the UNHRC and the list of countries running for a place on the body supposedly dedicated to fighting human rights abuses includes some states better known as abusers than defenders of freedom and justice. Among those likely to be elected are China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

This makes a mockery of the whole purpose of the UNHRC.

UN Watch, an NGO dedicated to monitoring the work of the United Nations and promoting human rights, distributed material ahead of the vote and has pointed out the absurdities. It also held a webinar with human rights dissidents persecuted by these very regimes to call on governments everywhere to oppose the election of the states with a record of abuse.
“Electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch.

Disconcertingly, despite the valiant efforts of UN Watch and other groups dedicated to fighting human rights abuses, the report shows how Cuba and Russia, which are the only candidates in their respective regional groups, are almost certain to be elected.

In the Asian regional group, where there are five candidates vying for four spots, the election of China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is almost assured, according to Neuer.

“It’s logically absurd and morally obscene that the UN is about to elect to its top human rights body a regime that herded 1 million Uighurs into camps, arrested, crushed and disappeared those who tried to sound the alarm about the coronavirus, and suffocated freedom in Hong Kong,” said Neuer.

He also noted that Saudi Arabia carried out a record 184 executions in 2019; Russia has a record of assassinating and attempting to assassinate dissenters including journalists and politicians; while Cuba is a police state.

A report by Amnesty International on Pakistan showed that last year the government continued to crack down on freedom of expression, arrest and “disappear” dissidents, fail to protect women and children (including child brides) and used its “blasphemy laws” to prosecute (i.e. persecute) religious minorities, including Christians.

Neuer called on the European Union’s High Commissioner, Josep Borrell, and EU member states to lead the move against the automatic election of proven human rights abusers to the council.

The United States, under President Donald Trump, pulled out from the body in June 2018 and Israel withdrew after being subjected to ongoing systematic bullying by the council.

Israel is subjected to a special agenda at the UNHRC called Agenda Item 7 – “The human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” This is the only country-specific standing agenda item which ensures that Israel, and only Israel, is singled out for condemnation at every sitting. Syria can massacre its own citizens, Iran can foster terrorism and persecute human rights defenders, China and Russia can suppress protests and basic human rights, but only Israel will be subject to a mandatory review and condemnation. This does nothing to foster peace. On the contrary, it is used as a weapon by the Palestinians.

The UNHRC is part of a continuing farce. The record of its predecessor, the Commission for Human Rights, was so poor that it was disbanded. The current council, formed in 2006, is no better.

Today, UNHRC spends more time reviewing and condemning Israel than it does looking at the actions of totalitarian regimes such as North Korea.

The composition of the UNHRC serves to emphasize that much of the world is still not free. Even worse, it is these non-democratic countries that are judging the rest of the world via an official United Nations body. It’s time this sham came to an end. For the United Nations Human Rights Council to be worthy of its name, its membership must reflect those countries who believe in and abide by human rights. The UN Human Rights Council has lost all credibility and cannot perform the task for which it was created. It must either be reformed or disbanded. In its current form, the UNHRC is guaranteed to ignore gross human rights abuses among its own members.

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