UNHCHR criticised for political inertia

Diplomats and activists have criticised the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, saying the institution enables human suffering to go on unchecked.

    UNHCHR: An institution to end rights abuses or not?

    Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Human Rights Watch's Lubna Fraih said the UNHCHR was at best a political beast made up of 53 member states with individual agendas that trade votes for good political relations.

    "The problem is that it is down to political games and political trickery, vote swapping and horse trading about different issues."
    Chitsaka Chipaziwa, Zimbabwe's ambassador to the UN, said the lack of a resolution on Iraq was a clear example of the selectivity and double standards in favour of western countries that had become enshrined in the commission.
    "We felt it odd, many of us, that when over 600 civilians are killed in a matter of days in Falluja nobody discusses that. 
    "What kind of human rights are we talking about if we cannot address the fundamental human right, which is the right to life itself?" he asked.
    Commission response

    Mary Whelan, Ireland's ambassador who is acting on behalf of the European Union at the commission, said Brussels proposed for discussion what it considered to be priority cases - such as a resolution on North Korea - at the forum. 

    "The best way for countries to avoid a resolution against them is to become a commission member"

    Adrien-Claude Zoller,
    president of Geneva for
    Human Rights

    "Those who make that argument [for a resolution on Iraq], they should act on that argument," she said.
    The commission, which is due to wrap-up its annual six-week session on 23 April, is widely seen as a place where member states such as China, Russia and the United States use their political influence on other parties to avoid condemnation of their human rights record.
    Chamber of impunity?

    Seated in circular rows with commission chairman Mike Smith at the head under a giant projector screen, states vote electronically on various issues from the country resolutions to broader measures on economic and social rights.
    Each nation's vote is displayed on the screen with the total yes, no or abstention tally at the bottom, facilitating block votes that protect the big players from inspection, critics said. 

    "The best way for countries to avoid a resolution against them is to become a commission member so they can decide on themselves," said Adrien-Claude Zoller, president of the non-governmental organisation Geneva for Human Rights.
    "The commission on human rights has become a chamber of impunity."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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