Human Rights · Riding A Dead Horse · United Nations

The cowardly lion is the dominant parent of the Commission on Human Rights (or the Twenty-seventh Report on the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights, April 21, 2005)

united-nations-day-2012_241012This morning, the Commission began by withdrawing a resolution on Item 9, the Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world that was about the situation of human rights in the Sudan. The EU felt they could withdraw the resolution because they were receiving the cooperation they had hoped for from the African Group in successfully addressing this issue on the ground. Comments were made regarding voting and positions of governments at the closure of Item 9 for this year’s Commission.

The resolution under Item 14, Specific groups and individuals, regarding the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, was adopted by the Commission without a vote. Australia stressed the importance of this resolution and reiterated their commitment to its content.

Resolutions regarding Item 17, on the promotion and protection of human rights, were brought to the Commission for action and the first resolution to be adopted was concerning the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and this was adopted by consensus. This resolution not only condemns terrorism in all its forms, but also urges governments not to violate human rights in their counter-terrorism policies and actions. The Commission also appointed a Special Rapporteur on the topic of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and will include in its mandate recommendations for States in the war on terrorism. Russia dithered on about something that seemed totally irrelevant. The USA as well blathered on about how committed they are to protecting human rights in the context of counter-terrorism actions and of course they never violate anyone’s human rights anywhere in the world. For once, the USA urges governments to comply with the UN treaties on combating terrorism as well as cooperate with the various anti-terrorism bodies that exist. Kenya, India, and Indonesia also spoke in favour and towards the importance of this resolution.

The resolution on impunity was also adopted without a vote and it seeks to end this horrible problem with regards to the punishment of human rights violators throughout the world. It details various war crimes, genocidal actions, gender based violence, and other violations that tend to enjoy impunity throughout the world. There were amendments presented by the USA which were rejected by the Commission, and had to do with eliminating or doctoring positive reference to the International Criminal Court as well as the Rome Statutes. The EU noted that the ICC was in fact very obviously assisting in the end to impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity and its reference must remain as it is in the text, furthermore that none of these amendments had been brought up during the drafting sessions for the resolution. The USA took the floor again to explain their well known position against the ICC and Rome Statutes, as well as point out that States who were not signatories had no obligations under these documents unless the Security Council decides otherwise. (Anyone else catch what they are alluding to?)

Item 19, regarding Advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. An enormous discussion ensued regarding this resolution in which the EU, USA and Russia noted how pleased they were that the resolution got by with consensus. But the African Group, Cuba, China, and the Sudan made comments regarding the inflexibility of the EU within the elaborations on the draft text, and even though they would not block consensus, they had strong reservations regarding many aspects of the resolution. Many felt this text remained unbalanced and thus lost some of its productivity as a sidenote.

The resolution on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights was adopted without a vote and without discussion. This resolution expresses concern at various human rights violations taking place in Somalia and they call upon the Transitional Federal Government to work harder at assuring the promotion and protection of human rights for all.

The Commission also adopted the Chairperson’s statements on Afghanistan and Haiti which support all of the progress being made in the nations and all of the steps the respective governments are making in the promotion and protection of human rights.

In terms of Item 20, the Rationalization of the Work of the Commission, the Commission adopted the resolution on enhancing and strengthening the effectiveness of the special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights, by consensus. This resolution calls for a report to be put together by the OHCHR with regards to the effectiveness of special measures and mandate holders of the Commission on Human Rights. The EU spoke in favour of the resolution and its importance. India stated that the Commission seems to have a carnival-like glee in assigning Special Rapporteurs at the drop of a hat, but hardly gives them due attention at their moments to present their work. The Secretariat of the Commission responded to budgetary concerns by noting further reference documents for the concerned nations. Australia agreed with India’s comments about reviewing certain mandates of the Commission.

Item 3, Organization of the work of the Commission, had before it one resolution which took up the attention of the Commission for the rest of the morning session. The resolution was entitled the question of detainees in the area of the United States naval base in Guantanamo, and it was rejected by a recorded vote of 8 in favour, 22 against, and 23 abstentions. The voting was like this:

In favour (8): China, Cuba, Guatemala, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Against (22): Armenia, Australia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mauritania, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (23): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Togo and Ukraine.

Mauritania said that the resolution should have been included under Item 11 regarding civil and political rights. The USA claimed that this resolution was a retaliatory resolution with regards to their text against Cuba, and furthermore has nothing to do with the question of human rights at hand. The USA claimed that all interested parties have full access to their naval base in Guantanamo unlike Cuba who will not allow the UN nor observers to see what is happening in their country. The USA claimed that all allegations made in the resolution are lies and thus it should be rejected. Honduras, the EU, Peru, Costa Rica, spoke in support of the USA’s compliance in regards to allegations about Guantanamo and thus this resolution is imbalanced and impartial and should be rejected. India was voting against it because they are, in principle, against country specific resolutions and they find it disturbing that there are less of these highly politicized resolutions under Item 9 this year, but now they crop up under Items 19 and 3 as well. Sudan said that this was the first time that a First World nation was being criticized for their human rights violations, and should be considered a step in the right direction regardless of what people think about the resolution. Malaysia followed in the same vein as Sudan and noted that the consideration of human rights in any part of the world was a mandate that had yet to be fulfilled by the Commission in their country-specific actions. Malaysia also pointed out that this resolution is an opportunity for the Commission to demonstrate its ability to address human rights situations in the world in a fair and just manner.

Once the afternoon session resumed, the Commission took up the resolution on the protection of human rights in the context of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) under Item 14 on specific groups and individuals. This resolution was adopted as amended by consensus, and apparently it would seem that the concerns of the USA and Pakistan were taken into account either in the text itself or they were expressed in reservations on certain paragraphs by the delegations in explaining their vote. This was quite disturbing as it meant that marital rape was taken out of the resolution, although references to abortion are contained within the text, and thus governments such as the USA, Honduras and Costa Rica expressed their right to life stance. Pakistan also noted that even though they would join consensus, they are still against the basic guidelines on HIV/AIDS and would like their objection maintained in the record.

Item 19 on Advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights, came up once again with the resolution on technical cooperation and advisory services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is one of those resolutions that encourages the government to fulfill obligations to protect and promote human rights, and will be strengthening the UN Mission to the Congo to assist with reform processes within the DRC. Due to the grave persistence of human rights violations, the Independent Expert on the Congo will have his mandate extended one more year to address the various issues. Before the resolution was adopted by consensus, the Commission voted on several amendments put forward by the USA which were rejected. The USA had put forward these amendments because once again they stated they do not agree with the ICC and they will not join in encouraging nations to ratify this body. Congo gave a bizarre statement that was a mixture of a Defensive and Pre-Emptive Defense statement (I told you it was bizarre) in which they discussed all the positive things that they are doing and why they will choose to go along with the resolution even though they feel that it is an unproductive way to achieve forward progress in this situation. Congo also claimed that the Commission often points at African countries for being ‘barbaric’ while they avoid discussing or taking action on human rights violations of developed nations.

The last decision of the day that was adopted had to do with the Organization of the work of the Commission for next year, and it was agreed that the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Human Rights would be from the 13 of March to 21 of April in 2006. The Commission also authorized six additional meetings and urged the Chairperson to fit the work of the Commission into this allocated time. The session was closed for the day and all remaining issues will be tabled during tomorrow’s session, the last day of the 61st Commission on Human Rights.

In honour of Tony Black Feather,