Friday, September 17, 2010

Repressive regimes paralyse UNHRC ( Human Rights Council) in Geneva

In a letter to parliament on the effectiveness of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen concludes that countries which violate human rights intentionally prevent the Council from becoming truly effective.

The minister writes that a number of member states of the Council harm UN efforts to safeguard human rights. These member states reject any criticism by invoking national sovereignty. In his letter, Mr Verhagen looks back on the four years after the Human Rights Council took over from the Human Rights Commission.
Minister Verhagen believes there is too much focus on Israel, which draws attention away from other countries. The inquiry into the Gaza war for instance caused quite a commotion and led to extended debates.

Alliances

The international NGO Freedom House largely agrees with the Dutch foreign minister. The organisation even accuses the Council of covering up some serious human rights violations. Out of the 47 member states, a majority have repressive regimes. These states reportedly vote as a bloc to shield each other from criticism. So far the Council has failed to expose abuse in countries such as Iran, Sudan and Cuba.

Periodic reviews

The minister also mentions a number of issues where the Council has achieved results. He points to violence against women, children’s rights and the right to water and sanitary facilities. According to Mr Verhagen, the periodic reviews that governments are required to take regarding the human rights situation in their own country have proved effective. For that matter, the Netherlands was criticised by the Council regarding a number of issues including discrimination and its asylum policy.
Mr Verhagen is worried about too much emphasis being placed on religious identity and blasphemy. He fears it will come at the expense of attention for individuals.

Day Opening - September 17

Bosphorus bridge; view from Ortakoy, Istanbul. By Brian Underdown