Esteemed NGO representatives, UN Agencies, Excellencies and government representatives,
It is an honor and privilege to be addressing you during this 61st United Nations Commission on Human Rights and I am optimistic that our time together will be fruitful and productive in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.
Firstly, I would like to give my deepest thanks and appreciation to His Excellency Jose Ramos-Horta, Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste for his statement during this high level segment in support of not only the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide, but also his courageous advocacy of the adoption of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in its original Sub-Commission draft text. Through His Excellency Mr. Ramos-Horta, the Spirit of the late High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Sergio Veira de Mello’s commitment to the rights of the world’s indigenous populations shone through gloriously. If it had not been for the contribution of Mr. de Mello within the Timor-Leste peace process and subsequent independence, there would have been no Nobel Peace Prize Laureate present for the newly formed government of Timor-Leste to speak for the millions of indigenous peoples who would like to see the Draft Declaration on their human rights adopted in its original form. Mr. de Mello, along with the multitude of other human rights defenders lost along the way, were present among these proceedings and were smiling as Mr. Ramos-Horta spoke all of our souls in saying:
“The other issue my Government is most concerned about is the status of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Res. 1995/32, the Commission established an open-ended intercessional working group for the purpose of finalizing the draft declaration adopted in 1994 by the Sub-Commission entitled ‘Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’
I am particularly dismayed that even after an extension was provided by the Commission in Res. 2004/59, the Working Group did not complete its assigned task. Timor-Leste is convinced that the original Draft Declaration elaborated over a decade of work by the Sub-Commission and which has the unanimous support of the world’s indigenous peoples, requires adoption as it now stands.
The single most dismal failure of the Decade for the World’s Indigenous Peoples is the failure to adopt the Draft Declaration.
The indigenous peoples of the world who bore the brunt of the worst of Western invasions, colonization and evangelization, in many instances leading to their virtual decimation, expect more from those who walked into their ancestral lands uninvited.”
From my deepest heart, I thank him and pray The Creator will bless him and his family for his true dedication to human rights in the world. I also encourage all human rights defenders to monitor closely the United States, Canada, UK, New Zealand, and Australia (among others) future treatment of the newly formed Timor-Leste as I fear that they will suffer harsh consequences from above-mentioned governments for Mr. Ramos-Horta’s very simple and honest statement.
That said, I congratulate the President of this Commission, Mr. Makarim Wibisono, on his election as well as Madame Louise Arbour who has recently taken up her post as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights. I wish them all the success possible in their posts for the promotion and protection of human rights. But unfortunately, as high-profile figures in the world of human rights at the moment, their countries are both seriously lacking in their nation’s horrific treatment of their indigenous populations, and I apologize that I must bring up these issues so early in the Commission proceedings. I hope that in the coming weeks, both the Indonesian as well as Canadian government (among a huge number of others) will acknowledge, address and begin making reparations for the gross violations of the rights of their indigenous peoples, preferably within a resolution to that extent be put forward within this august body. I would also urge that all nations with horrific records of human rights abuses and systematic violence against indigenous peoples will be named so that justice may be meted out to at-fault parties, who would include such champions of human rights as the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, and dozens of others.
My fellow comrades,
The issue of United Nations reform has been at the forefront of this year’s Commission proceedings thus far on account of the High-Level Panel report on Threats, Challenges and Change in regards to the United Nations system. I would like to take a few moments to touch upon this relevant and pressing issue.
Firstly, I am wholeheartedly in support of the proposed Global Human Rights Report that Madame Arbour’s office would undertake if allocated the necessary funds. I would hope that this report would create an extensive database of all human rights violations in the world, without discrimination of wealthy or poor country, and would assist the entire world in recognizing that when it comes to human rights violations, there is not a single government on this planet that is exempt. The impunity of the powerful nations must end and this Global Report would be an excellent first step.
Secondly, the issue of universal membership is an extremely problematic one and could further the muddying of the Commission waters if performed incorrectly. If universal membership is to go hand in hand with the Global Report on Human Rights, it is possible that the concept could move the promotion and protection of human rights forward, as there will be no so-called champions of human rights who name and shame for reasons of politics rather than a concerted effort to disseminate social justice. It would appear that instead of encouraging further strains on the tight UN resources by advocating universal membership in the Commission as a ‘reform,’ the task would be to make Commission membership more selective, even if this would mean that only ten nations would fit the criteria to be members.
Thirdly, the gross imbalance of country-specific resolutions drafted by Developed nations against Developing countries is a serious problem that must be addressed. These Developing nations are taking the scary tactic that country-specific resolutions should be abolished in general, a disturbing notion when it comes to the reality of promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world. I would urge these Developing nation member States to sponsor more resolutions that address the issue of human rights violations in Developed nations, and also encourage Developed nations to be more open to these resolutions which would have a high level of legitimacy in their claims.
I have noticed some alarming trends within the government interventions made before this esteemed body, which rarely reflect an accurate portrait of the situation on the ground. I would like to highlight these trends at this moment in the spirit of (Crazy Horse) constructive criticism and in the sincere interest of moving forward the promotion and protection of human rights, which is the purpose of everyone’s participation in this 61st UN Commission on Human Rights.
1) The Name and Shame Approach, which tends to be a First World nation extolling their stain-free human rights record (wholly inaccurate) and proceeding to slam and scorch Third World nations for their human rights violations. Governments such as the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, and other Developed nations typically make these (racist) statements. This type of Commission intervention leads to our second trend of:
2) The Pre-Emptive Defense, usually made by governmental delegates of reproached Named and Shamed governments who pre-empt the litany of human rights violations that are soon to come from First World delegates and will details all of the advances in the field of human rights in their nation. This Pre-Emptive Defense will tend to detail all of the recent legislation that has been passed in the Nation in the protection of various levels of human rights, as well as other measures the government has been taking to further social justice and equality, in line with the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, the UN Charter as well as any other relevant UN Treaty Bodies. These interventions are usually made by basically all Latin American, Asian, African and some Eastern European nations.
3) The Avoidance Intervention as well as its fraternal twin the Time-Filler Talk are empty discourses on the value and importance of human rights promotion and protection in the world. As noted, they either attempt to avoid noting human rights violations at home or elsewhere, or are simply a government’s attempt to fill time and have an intervention recorded within the Summary Record of the UN with regards to whatever the issue may be. These interventions are rife with diplomatic posturing and the subtle violence of the American politically correct phenomenon which has taken the Commission with full force in the last few years. These types of interventions are much more common during the substantive agenda item discussions of the Commission.
4) Finally (for the moment) we have the Empty Introductions, which can take up to half of the allotted speaking time giving thanks to various delegates, UN officials, special agencies, Special Rapporteurs, or what have you and are as their titles suggest: empty.
It is in my view that these types of formula interventions categorized within the high-level segment are unproductive and, forgive my frankness, an utter waste of time and the precious resources of the Commission, which would be far better used in the promotion of human rights in substantial discussions on agenda items addressing specific issues. Of course, this is not to say that it is always a pleasure to have in our presence the highly esteemed entourage of high level officials, such as the Vice President of Colombia, for example. But I am positive that in the spirit of the promotion and protection of human rights, these delegates would sacrifice their 15 minutes of speaking time in the first four days of the Commission in order to further the discussions on the core agenda of the venerated body. I would further recommend that the saved time be allocated to Non-governmental Organizations, whose role in the Commission represents civil society and the constituencies of above-noted governmental delegations. Of course, governments would be welcome to submit their high-level interventions in writing for Commission participants to collect as they wish.
Within these four days of high-level interventions, every topic under the heading of human rights has been addressed to some extent, certain themes to more detail than others. I do not need to repeat the litany for you all know it very well and are free to review all of the dozens of statements published on the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, www.ohchr.org. I would, however, like to delve into two topics in particular which received scant attention from delegates, much to my disappointment (which soon transformed to disgust).
First of all, the issue of indigenous peoples was scarcely mentioned even though the UN General Assembly has recently voted for a Second Decade on the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the Draft Declaration on their rights is a controversial topic of discussion this year. Erroneously, the Canadian delegation claimed in their high-level (Avoidance) intervention that only one session is needed in order to complete the Draft Declaration negotiations which they have systematically obstructed over the years. The only governments to even mention indigenous peoples were Canada, Finland, and Timor-Leste. We all know that most every nation in this world has indigenous peoples whose lands have been stolen, whose cultures have been systematically annihilated and whose mere presence in this world is subject to genocidal policies. The erasure of the world’s indigenous peoples within this high level segment was shocking, and I would like to note that all of those who participated in this campaign of misinformation are in fact participating in the global genocide of indigenous populations. I would urge these governments to think about this fact and adjust their policies and UN interventions accordingly.
There is also the horrific question of sexual violence, or gender-based violence as the Political Correctos would call it, whose taboo nature must be dismantled openly. It does not surprise me that the mostly male Foreign Ministers would be faint to mention the words ‘rape’ or ‘sexual violence,’ let alone the fact that rape is now considered a war crime and crime against humanity, punishable by international tribunals. It does not surprise me, but it sickens me to think that many of these men represent governments who have advocated rape, enforced pregnancy, sexual slavery and other horrific acts of sexual violence as part of the war package and are content that this continue to be part of a woman’s role in war: that her body, not just the land, be a battleground. I am not only referring to the sexual violence presence in the numerous civil conflicts around the world, but also for the appalling practices of western and UN troops in these nations and in their own nations, leading to the conclusion that war cannot be trained for or waged without an element of sexualized violence. I would persuade all governments of the world to admit in public to the widespread and institutional violence against women, and then to take the concrete steps to destigmatize survivors of sexual violence as well as properly persecute the perpetrators.
Before closing, I would like to touch upon a few other notable moments of this first week of the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights.
Bravo to the fearless delegation of Cuba for breaking the code of silence against the grave human rights violations of the USA. Although they did not mention the USA’s treatment of their indigenous populations, Cuba was the only government to formally mention the horrific and illegal detention of hundreds of Guantanamo Bay prisoners held by the American government in their illegal occupation of this Cuban territory as well as reminding the Commission and all participants of the grotesque Abu-Ghraib scandals we witnessed with disgust and revulsion this past year. I was pleased that the Cuban Foreign Minister received applause even before speaking, and his applause after his intervention was the longest that any delegate received. I would hope that other delegations would be as brave in speaking the truth against power.
Several Latin American Foreign Ministers noted an interesting issue of The Right to Truth, albeit in the context of post-dictator reconstruction and reconciliation, but a human right that should be explored further in other contexts.
The current Iraqi administration made a frighteningly brainwashed intervention in which they rehashed human rights violations of Saddam Hussein which were dozens of years old and lauded their new liberty, freedom and growing democracy. Shamelessly, the Iraqi minister blamed neighboring countries for allowing terrorists to cross into the newly-forming ‘democratic’ Iraq and also urged countries to contribute financially to the reconstruction of the nation. Considering that the invasion of Iraq by the occupying powers (occupying because three nations does not a coalition make by its very definition) was wholly illegal and inappropriate in the light of international law, diplomacy and human decency.
Many delegates have noted that democracy and human rights are inextricably linked, and that there can be no human rights promotion or protection without a solid democracy. It would be nice to know, for the record, where there is a true democracy alive and well in this world, as from my view, democracy worldwide is a farce and a far cry from the principles it entails, this a million times over in the world’s champion of democracies, the USA, who have not had free and fair elections in the last eight years. Of course, the statement made by the USA extolled the virtues of democracy and human rights, as if Americans have any of above-mentioned rights and the country is not actually a fascist dictatorship, a rogue State threatening global peace and security.
The harsh breakdown of diplomacy during the Right of Reply statements is further tantamount to the disintegrating productivity of the Commission. These are the moments when diplomatic masks drop; searing claws emerge and start slashing. The blood spills everywhere. As is the tradition within the Commission several battlegrounds emerge. The Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea versus Japan, India versus Pakistan, Zimbabwe versus the UK, Armenia versus Azerbaijan, Israel versus Palestine, and vice versa for all, and among others that will emerge as the debates continue. These are easily the most dramatic, but also the least appropriate and most verbally violent of all Commission interactions where, for whatever reasons, no holds are barred in the spoken slash-fest. It would be amusing if it wasn’t so frightening, and in the spirit of promoting and protecting human rights, it is ironic that even amidst these high-level UN discussions common decorum and politeness can not be maintained, and it certainly makes one think about how easy violence is as an option for certain governments. Then, on the flip side, there are governments such as the USA who never exercise their Right of Reply because in their arrogant stance of We Rule the World So What You Say Means Less Than Nothing, there is no reason to belittle their lofty stance as All Powerful God To Be by responding.
In concluding, it is clear within the close examination of these high-level interventions and the high-level segment in general that we are in the midst of a theatre of diplomacy. A theatre that at moments is suspended for verbal attacks and indecency, but nonetheless, a spectacle in which delegates from all around the world participate in the growing culture of politically correctness and the inability to speak with substance for fear of whatever the case may be. This should not be the case in any way, shape or form. We are not participating in the Commission on Human Rights to perform. Most of us are here because there is prevalent injustice throughout the world that must be addressed. The Commission should be improving these injustices, not contributing to their whitewashing and erasure. Again I beg your indulgence for my bluntness, but the litany of lies regurgitated within these hallowed halls like acid eating through all that is honorable and good is unacceptable and simply repugnant.
Every time a delegate tells a lie, they should not blindly think that there will be no effect and that simply, these are words. These are not words, and these evil vibrations reach far and deep into the souls of those who speak them, all who hear them and all of those who continue to do nothing. This Commission offers us all the opportunity for our souls to grow by being honest, human, compassionate and righteous to our fellow human beings, as well as this Earth that we all inhabit together. Take this opportunity for your soul to grow, to expand with light and love, before it is too late to repair so many years of damage.
I thank you for your time, esteemed colleagues, and wish you all the best in the coming weeks.
In honour of Tony Black Feather,