US pushes for ‘historic’ human rights debate at Security Council but achieves little

April 20, 2017

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting. Rick Bajornas/UN Photo

The United States led on Tuesday 18 April what it (and not many others) dubbed a ‘historicU.N. Security Council meeting on the link between rights abuses and conflict, but it had to drop a push for the broad issue of human rights to become a fixed item of the Security Council’s agenda when it appeared that at least six members would oppose it [Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Bolivia were against the move and Senegal’s support was uncertain]. The United States, council president for April, did not risk the measure being put to a rare procedural vote, which requires nine in favour, and vetoes cannot be used. The opposing council members say rights discussion should be confined to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – which Washington accuses of being anti-Israel and has threatened to quit – and the 193-member U.N. General Assembly third committee. Here is some of the analysis:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/19/opinions/human-rights-cycle-violence-nikki-haley/ (her own speech)

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/reuters/u-s–highlights-human-rights-at-u-n–council–but-some-states-wary/43118490

Haley’s ‘Historic’ Human Rights Debate Left a Small Impression – IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Dulcie Leimbach wrote in Passblue on 18 April that there was little new even in the speech of Haley, but that what shone through the two-hour meeting was the consistent messages of other Council members, who commended the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as indispensable partners with the Security Council (France, Britain) while António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, also reinforced the primary role of the UN human-rights monitoring bodies. He said that “close cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and all relevant United Nations bodies, including the Security Council, enhances general awareness of potential crisis situations, and our collective ability to address them.” Guterres described the Security Council’s own “decisive action” on human rights, citing the establishment of the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere as well as the Council’s referral of atrocity cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

As if stuck on a sales pitch, the US emphasized in the weeks before the meeting that it was holding the first exclusive session in the Council on human rights. But that is debatable, say some rights experts, since the topic has been written specifically into 15 peacekeeping mission mandates, sanctions, investigations, resolutions, special-envoy responsibilities and other matters relevant to the Council. [Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted in the lead-up to the meeting, is the “human rights discussion serious?” He added: “Are particular countries named? Do they include allies?”]

If the U.S. administration wants to show it has a genuine commitment to human rights, then it needs to take a serious look at its recent policies,” Sherine Tadros, the head of the New York office for Amnesty International, said in an email. “You can’t have directives coming from Washington that are distinctly anti-human rights and then say you’re championing human rights at the U.N.

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