Posts Tagged ‘China’

China, Russia and Pakistan in UN fail at attempt to muzzle human rights defenders (for now)

July 7, 2018

On 6 July 2018 Stephanie Nebehay reported for Reuters that China, Russia and Pakistan lost their bid on Friday to weaken a U.N. resolution upholding the crucial rule of human rights defenders. The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on all states to protect civil society groups from threats and intimidation, and prosecute reprisals against them. Chile presented the resolution text on behalf of more than 50 countries on the final day of a three-week session. Amendments proposed by China, Pakistan and Russia – declaring that civil society groups must respect “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” and that their funding must be “legal and transparent” – were soundly defeated. So, in spite of increasing retaliation against human right defenders and pressure on civil society in many countries [see recently: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/ ], the UN is still able to resist some of the more blatant attempt to silence critics.

China and Russia are often the least tolerant of civil society at home. They are now seeking to introduce similar restrictions at the international level,” John Fisher of Human Rights Watch told Reuters. Their attempts to place national sovereignty above international human rights law “would turn guarantees of peaceful assembly and association on their heads”.

“These amendments were a swing and a miss for China and its allies on the Council,” Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights told Reuters, using an American baseball term. “Their efforts to limit civil society’s independence and shut down civil society voices were rebuffed by a strong message – from member states across the globe – about the importance of keeping defenders’ voices at the table”.

[At the current session, China tried unsuccessfully to block the accreditation of Uighur activist Dolkun Isa, U.N. sources said. China’s delegation publicly challenged activists speaking on behalf of Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities. Council president Vojislav Suc, Slovenia’s ambassador, said allegations of intimidation and reprisals had emerged during the session and urged “all necessary measures” to prevent such acts.]

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-rights/china-russia-fail-to-curb-activists-role-at-u-n-rights-forum-campaigners-idUSKBN1JW2EM

Guide to HRD issues at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council

June 15, 2018

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 38th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 18 June to 6 July 2018. The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has – as usual – published an excellent alert full of substantive issues (see link at the bottom of this post). Here I just highlight some of the session’s features that are of special interest to human rights defenders;

Sexual orientation and gender identity. The first interactive dialogue with the new Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be held between 9:00 and 12:00 on Monday 18 June. The Council will consider the new report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visit to Argentina.
In a joint written submission to the Independent Expert submitted in the lead-up to the presentation of his report to the Council, a group of 12 NGOs detail State obligations that if  implemented, would work towards ensuring that LGBTI defenders’ rights are protected (based in existing international human rights law and articulated in the Yogyakarta Principles (YP) and Yogyakarta Principles plus 10, (YP +10). ISHR and ILGA will organise a side-event that will build on this submission and discuss in more detail State obligations set out in the YP +10. The event will take place on 21 June 2018 from 15:00 to 16:30 in Room XXIII.

Reprisals. Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow.  Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out. [see recent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/]

Women human rights defenders and women’s rights. The Annual Full Day Discussion on the human rights of women will take place on Thursday 21 June from 16:00 to 18:00. It will focus on the specific impact of online violence on the work of women human rights defenders. It is crucial that the Council’s discussions and resolutions recognise the critical role of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and organisations led by women and girls as rights holders and agents of change. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 20 June between 09:00 and 12:00 and will consider her report including the report of her visit to Australia. The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice and will consider their reports including a report on the country visit to Samoa and Chad.

Business and human rights. The Council consider the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and business. It examines the duty of States to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises to whom they provide support for trade and investment promotion. It will also consider the Working Group’s report on its mission to CanadaPeru, and on the sixth session of the Forum on Business and Human Rights. Both country reports contain specific sections analysing the situation of human rights defenders, with the report on Peru raising serious concerns about the high level of threats, attacks and violence against local leaders and human rights defenders. The interactive dialogue will be an opportunity for States to follow-up to recommendations made in the UPR in that regard. The core group on the resolution on business and human rights (Argentina, Norway, Ghana and Russia) have announced that they will present a resolution at this Council session to request the OHCHR to continue with the accountability and remedy report with a focus on non-State based remedy mechanisms. The first informal consultation on the draft resolution will be held on 18 June at 16:30 in Room XXIV.

Other thematic reports

The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue and consider the report of the new Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Switzerland with Costa Rica also announced that they will be running the resolution on the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. The first informal consultations will be held on 19 June from 11:30 to 12:30 in Room V.

The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue and consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which examines regulation of user-generated content online. The Council will consider the report of the High Commissioner on procedures and practices in respect of civil society engagement with international and regional organisations. The core group on the civil society space resolution (Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia) announced that they will present a resolution this session.

The Council will also consider the reports of and hold interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, including the report of his mission to Poland, and with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, including reports of her missions to Iraq and El Salvador.

Country specific developments

Burundi During its 36th session, the Council passed two resolutions on Burundi. One resolution was led by the European Union and extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. The second resolution was led by the African Group and requested OHCHR to urgently dispatch a team of three experts to engage with the Burundian authorities and all other stakeholders to “collect and preserve information, to determine the facts and circumstances in accordance with international standards and to forward to the judicial authorities of Burundi such information”. The aim was to establish the truth and ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable. Read here ISHR’s analysis of the two resolutions. At the 38th session, the Council will hear the oral briefing by the High Commissioner on the mission of OHCHR on 4 July between 15:00 and 18:00. The Council will also hear an oral briefing by the Commission of Inquiry on 27 June between 09:00 and 12:00. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-un-human-rights-council/]

China. By any measure, the Chinese government is not living up to the commitments to protect and promote human rights inherent in its Human Rights Council membership. Since the twelve-country joint statement on the human rights situation in China in March 2016, there has been no concerted effort to use the Council space creatively to call for accountability and transparency related to violations in China. This, despite the fact that in July 2017, Chinese security authorities presided over the death in custody of Liu Xiaobo, the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in detention since Carl von Ossietzky died in Nazi Germany in 1938… In this context NGOs , incl. the iSHR, continue to call for the release of individuals arbitrarily detained and/or held incommunicado, including Wang Quanzhang, Gui Minhai, Tashi Wangchuk, Lee Ming-che, and Yu Wensheng. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/]

Eritrea. The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea on 25 June. A cross-re­gional group of non-governmental organisations urged the Council to support and co-sponsor at the 38th session a streamlined resolution that accurately reflects the gravity of the situation on the ground, renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur under the Council’s agenda item 4, and sets out a framework for needed reforms to improve the human rights situation in the country and advance accountability.

Other country situations include: 

  • An interactive dialogue on the oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Rakhine State of Myanmar, and the oral report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
  • An enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the findings of the team of international experts on the situation in the Kasai regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and on the oral update by OHCHR on the situation of human rights in the DRC
  • An oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Ukraine
  • An oral update by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic
  • An interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria (oral update) and consideration of the summary report of OHCHR on the high-level panel discussion on violations of the human rights of children in Syria
  • An interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus on his report
  • During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports as part of the 29th session of the UPR. These reports list recommendations the following States under review are expected to implement: France, Tonga, Romania, Mali, Botswana, the Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Liechtenstein, and Serbia.

This session of the Council will provide an opportunity for BurundiMali and the United Arab Emirates to to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers on those countries.

The Council appointed new Bureau members due to the departure of the Ambassadors of Chile and Germany. The members of the Bureau for 2018 now comprises of the following Ambassadors:

  • Vojislav ŠUC (Slovenia), President of the Human Rights Council
  • Evan P. GARCIA (Philippines), Vice President
  • Cristobal Gonzalez-Aller Jurado (Spain), Vice President
  • Juan Eduardo EGUIGUREN (Chile), Vice President and Rapporteur
  • François Xavier NGARAMBÉ (Rwanda), Vice President

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. All panel discussions will be broadcast live and archived on http://webtv.un.org. Four panel discussions are scheduled for this upcoming session:

  • The Annual Full Day Discussion on the human rights of women will be held in two sessions. First, on 21 June from 16:00 to 18:00, the panel will focus on the impact of violence against women human rights defenders and women’s organisations in digital spaces. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • The second panel will be held on 22 June from 10:00 to 12:00 and will focus on advancing women’s rights through access and participation in information and communication technologies (ICTs). The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • A panel discussion will be held on 26 June from 16:00 to 18:00 on the human rights of internally displaced persons in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • The Annual Thematic Panel Discussion on technical cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights will be held on 4 July from 10:00 to 12:00. The topic will be “Human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals: enhancing human rights technical cooperation and capacity-building to contribute to the effective and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The concept note of the panel is available here.

The ISHR and other NGOs will again organize quite a few side events on which I will report separately.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc38-key-issues-agenda-june-2018-session

Death of international human rights regime declared premature by professor Nye

May 24, 2018

Joseph S. Nye, a professor at Harvard, in a piece of 10 May 2018 entitled “Human rights and the fate of the liberal order“, takes issue with those who despair of the current slide of the human rights system as we know it. The piece is certainly worth reading in total:
Image courtesy Pawel Ryszawa via Wikimedia Commons.

Many experts have proclaimed the death of the post‑1945 liberal international order, including the human-rights regime set forth in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The cover of Foreign Policy recently displayed the white dove of human rights pierced by the bloody arrows of authoritarian reaction.

According to ‘realist’ international relations theorists, one cannot sustain a liberal world order when two of the three great powers—Russia and China—are anti-liberal. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa argue that the era when Western liberal democracies were the world’s top cultural and economic powers may be drawing to a close. Within the next five years, ‘the share of global income held by countries considered “not free”—such as China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia—will surpass the share held by Western liberal democracies’.

There are several problems with this argument. For starters, it relies on a measure called purchasing power parity, which is good for some purposes, but not for comparing international influence. At current exchange rates, China’s annual GDP is $12 trillion, and Russia’s is $2.5 trillion, compared to the United States’ $20 trillion economy. But the more serious flaw is lumping countries as disparate as China and Russia together as an authoritarian axis. There is nothing today like the infamous Axis of Nazi Germany and its allies in the 1930s.

While Russia and China are both authoritarian and find it useful to caucus against the US in international bodies like the United Nations Security Council, they have very different interests. China is a rising power that is highly intertwined with the international economy, including the US. In contrast, Russia is a declining country with serious demographic and public health problems, with energy rather than finished goods accounting for two-thirds of its exports.

Declining countries are often more dangerous than rising ones. Vladimir Putin has been a clever tactician, seeking to ‘make Russia great again’ through military intervention in neighbouring countries and Syria, and by using cyber-based information warfare to disrupt—with only partial success—Western democracies. A study of Russian broadcasting in Ukraine found that it was effective only with the minority that was already Russia-oriented, though it was able to produce polarising and disruptive effects in the political system. And the revival of Cold War–style information warfare has done little to create soft power for Russia. The London-based Soft Power 30 index ranks Russia 26th. Russia has had some success cultivating allies in Eastern Europe, but it is not part of a powerful authoritarian axis such as existed in the 1930s.

China is different. It has announced its willingness to spend billions to increase its soft power. At meetings in Davos in 2017 and Hainan in 2018, Xi Jinping presented China as a defender of the existing international order, but one with Chinese rather than liberal characteristics. China does not want to overturn the current international order, but rather to reshape it to increase its gains.

It has the economic tools to do so. It rations access to its huge market for political purposes. Norway was punished after the dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Eastern Europeans were rewarded after they watered down European Union resolutions on human rights. And Singaporean and Korean companies suffered after their governments took positions that displeased China. The Chinese government’s massive Belt and Road Initiative to build trade infrastructure throughout Eurasia provides ample opportunities to use business contracts to wield political influence. And China has increasingly restricted human rights at home. As Chinese power increases, the global human-rights regime’s problems will increase.

But no one should be tempted by exaggerated projections of Chinese power. If the US maintains its alliances with democratic Japan and Australia, and continues to develop good relations with India, it will hold the high cards in Asia. In the global military balance, China lags far behind, and in terms of demography, technology, the monetary system and energy dependence, the US is better placed than China in the coming decade. In the Soft Power 30 index, China ranks 25th, while the US is third.

Moreover, no one knows what the future will bring for China. Xi has torn up Deng Xiaoping’s institutional framework for leadership succession, but how long will Xi’s authority last? In the meantime, on issues such as climate change, pandemics, terrorism and financial stability, both an authoritarian China and the US will benefit from cooperation. The good news is that some aspects of the current international order will persist; the bad news is that it may not include the liberal element of human rights.

The human-rights regime may face a tougher environment, but that is not the same as a collapse. A future US administration can work more closely with the EU and other like-minded states to build a human-rights caucus. A G10, comprising the world’s major democracies, could coordinate on values alongside the existing G20 (which includes non-democracies such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia), with its focus on economic issues.

Others can help. As Kathryn Sikkink points out in her new book, Evidence for hope, while US support has been important to human rights, the US was not always very liberal during the Cold War, and the origins of the regime in the 1940s owed much to Latin Americans and others. Moreover, transnational rights organisations have developed domestic support in numerous countries.

In short, we should be concerned about the multiple challenges to liberal democracy during the current setback to what Samuel P. Huntington called the ‘third wave’ of democratisation. But that is no reason to give up on human rights.

World Press Freedom Day: a good time for honoring journalists

May 4, 2018

Yesterday, 3 May 2018, was World Press Freedom Day and many noteworthy activities took place. The Economist and many other newspapers of course paid attention with grisly statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists and other sources. It was also a time to award courageous journalists and cartoonist; just to mention a few:

Musa Kart was announced as the 2018 laureate of the International Press Cartoon Prize by Cartooning for Peace.

The 2018 International Press Cartoon (or Drawing) Prize, presented biannually in Geneva, was awarded to the Turkish cartoonist who was recently sentenced to almost four years in prison for “aiding terrorism”. He is a 64-year-old artist working with the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet and was described as a “free spirit and a remarkable artist” by Swiss cartoonist Chappatte, a member of the jury.

It was also the day of the presentation of the first Ari Rath Prize for Critical Journalism (established to honour journalists who have rendered outstanding services to critical reporting on immigration, expulsion and asylum, committed to respect for human rights, in the spirit of the former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, who died in January 2017). Austrian journalist Alexandra Föderl-Schmid was the laureate.

Alexandra Föderl-Schmid who helped shape the daily newspaper “Der Standard” for almost three decades. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Franz Johann Morgenbesser.

For more on the many human rights awards for the media and journalists see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) partnered with the London-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) to commemorate World Press Freedom Day in Stockholm with an event focused on Turkey, which leads the world in the highest number of journalists in jail. According to SCF data, 258 journalists and media workers were in jail as of today, with 59 of them already convicted on dubious charges of terrorism, defamation and coup plotting. In addition, 142 Turkish journalists who were forced to go into exile or still remain at large in Turkey are wanted for arrest by authorities.

 

Nine NGOs wrote on World Press Freedom Day a joint letter expressing deep concern over the continued arbitrary detention of Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language advocate arrested in 2016 after giving an interview to the New York Times. Tashi Wangchuk has since been tried for “inciting separatism,” a politically motivated charge that violates his rights to freedom of expression and association. [Tashi Wangchuk began raising public concern for the lack of rightful Tibetan-language education …In late 2015, he spoke with the New York Times in an interview about his attempts to promote the teaching of Tibetan; he insisted the interview be on the record. A journalist from the New York Times also accompanied him to Beijing, where Tashi Wangchuk attempted to file a lawsuit to ensure local authorities guarantee the provision of Tibetan language education. The result was an article and video documentary featured in the New York Times in November 2015.

In his article, Tashi Wangchuk insisted that his language advocacy was peaceful and non-political. His attempts to persuade the Chinese government to guarantee Tibetan language instruction were conducted through official channels and he made it clear that he was not advocating Tibetan independence. Instead, his main focus was ending the destruction of Tibetan language and culture. Despite taking these precautions, Tashi Wangchuk was arrested on 27 January 2016, held in an unknown location and later stood trial in a closed session. See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/

 Tashi Wangchuk press freedom day ngos

 

And then there were many smaller events all around the globe that also deserves attention, such as Amnesty International Nepal voicing support to journalists as human rights defenders (such as Charan Kumar Prasai and Subodh Pyakurel and Rajan Prasad Kuikel).

———
https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2018/05/daily-chart-0 
http://www.myrepublica.com/news/41038/?categoryId=81
http://www.cartooningforpeace.org/en/
https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/world-press-freedom-day_imprisoned-turkish-caricaturist-awarded-geneva-cartoon-prize/44092346

 

https://stockholmcf.org/scf-iohr-partner-to-celebrate-world-press-freedom-day-with-a-focus-on-turkey/
https://www.vindobona.org/article/presentation-of-the-first-ari-rath-prize-for-critical-journalism
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/05/03/world-press-freedom-day-xi-jinping-release-tibetan-tashi-wangchuk-charged-nytimes-report/

How China extracts televised “confessions” from human rights defenders

April 12, 2018

Safeguard Defenders says these confessions violate both domestic and international law as they are often filmed before detainees have been allowed their right to a fair trial. In some cases, the confessions were extracted before formal arrest. “They deprive the suspect of due process; infringing on the right to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence, the right to remain silent, the right not to self-incriminate and the right to be protected against giving a forced confession and torture.

Many foreign nationals have been included in these confessions, which are aired on Chinese state television and, in some cases, by Hong Kong media. The monitoring group believes they are regularly used as “tools of propaganda” for both domestic audiences and as part of China’s foreign policy.

The report found that 60 percent of the confessions are from detainees who either worked in media – such as journalists, bloggers and publishers – or were human rights defenders, such as lawyers, NGO workers and activists. They are people whom the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) typically perceives as its enemies or critics and are usually charged with national security crimes or social order violations. The study also found that Chinese police regularly took charge of the so-called confessions. Routinely dictating and directing what the detainee should say and do, right down to the outfit they were to wear.

The interviewees described how the police took charge of the confession from dressing them in ‘costume;’ writing the confession ‘script’ and forcing the detainee to memorise it; giving directions on how to ‘deliver’ their lines – including in one case, being told to weep; to ordering retake after retake when not satisfied with the result,” the report said.

As a result of their research, Safeguard Defenders has called on the Chinese authorities to immediately stop the use of televised confessions and ensure all detainees receive the legal protections enshrined in domestic and international law. The group also called on foreign governments to stress to Beijing that there will be “consequences for ongoing violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.”

State news channel CCTV was identified as the primary broadcaster for televised confessions. Sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, should be imposed on key executives of the media network, the group recommends. The network, along with others responsible for airing such confessions, should also be registered as foreign agents in other countries. According to the report, “media organizations that film, collaborate with police in the staged and scripted process, and broadcast these confessions… are as culpable as the Chinese state in committing this deceptive, illegal and human rights violating practice.”

https://qz.com/1249842/swedish-human-rights-activist-peter-dahlins-first-hand-account-of-how-china-extracts-confessions-for-tv/

https://www.standardrepublic.com/world/world-news-chinese-language-state-tv-which-operates-in-uk-and-us-produces-chilling-compelled-confession-movies-for-brutal-regime/

https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/04/threats-torture-fear-rights-group-calls-for-end-to-chinas-televised-confessions/#crKm6uQdL4vf7sJS.97

The assault on human rights in the UN is starting to hurt

April 1, 2018

Success in passing the “win-win resolution” in the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/26/chinas-win-win-resolution-gets-the-votes-in-the-un-council/], is just the visible part of a larger and more ominous assault on the human rights system as it has been built up (however incomplete and painstaking) over the last decades. Julian Borger in the Guardian of 27 March 2018 (“China and Russia accused of waging ‘war on human rights’ at UN”) describes how the two countries lobbied to cut funding for human rights monitors and for a senior post dedicated to human rights work. This all seems to fit very well with the trend started in 2016 and which I tried to describe in early 2017 in a series of posts, of which the last one was: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

The funding of the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva has also been cut. The current high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has announced that he will be stepping down this year and not seeking another term in the post, explaining to his staff that the lack of global support for protecting human rights made his job untenable. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/]

Last week, Zeid was due to address the UN security council on plight of civilians in Syria but before he began, Russia called a procedural vote to stop him speaking on the grounds that the council was not the proper forum for discussing human rights. “The fifth committee has become a battleground for human rights,” Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted in the Guardian. “Russia and China and others have launched a war on things that have human rights in their name.”

China has real political momentum at the UN now,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations, said. “It is now the second biggest contributor the UN budget after the US, and is increasingly confident in its efforts to roll back UN human rights activities. It is also pushing its own agenda – with an emphasis on ‘harmony’ rather than individual rights in UN forums. And a lot of countries like what they hear.”

A western diplomat at the UN conceded that human rights were losing ground at the UN, in part because China had become a more assertive voice, prepared to lead lobbying campaigns, and because Beijing is increasingly leveraging its vast and growing investments in the developing world to win votes for its agenda at the UN.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/china-and-russia-accused-of-waging-war-on-human-rights-at-un

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/a-new-low-for-the-un-security-council-as-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-the-table/

China’s ‘win-win’ resolution gets the votes in the UN Council

March 26, 2018

Frédéric Burnand for Swissinfo reported on 26 March 2018 that the UN Human Rights Council in the end adopted the Chinese draft resolution that I referred to earlier: [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/07/china-and-the-un-human-rights-council-really-win-win/].

Conseil des droits de l'homme
Diplomats gathered on Friday to vote on resolutions presented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (swissinfo.ch)

The Chinese resolution calling for “mutually beneficial cooperation” on human rights issues was adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council last week, but human rights defenders and several countries say it actually weakens human rights principles.

The Chinese resolution is the first stage of a major step backwards,” Geneva-based human rights specialist Adrien Claude Zoller told swissinfo.ch, calling it “THE major event” of the Human Rights Council’s 37th sessionexternal link.

At first glance, Beijing’s resolution at the Human Rights Council – only its second-ever in nearly a dozen years ! – seems relatively innocent. The text, full of diplomatic language such as “universality” and “international constructive dialogue”, was adopted on Friday evening by 28 votes to one, with 17 abstentions.

But it nonetheless upset many diplomats and human rights campaigners in Geneva. Australia, Britain, Japan, and Switzerland were among those abstaining, though many envoys spoke out against the text.  Ahead of Friday’s vote, Switzerland said the resolution contained “vague and ambiguous language that weakens fundamental human rights principles”. [see also in this context: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/22/unfortunately-europe-is-not-stepping-up-its-human-rights-policy-in-us-absence/]

While welcoming “constructive international cooperation as a means of promoting and protecting human rights”, Switzerland’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Valentin Zellweger, stressed that human rights-related mandates need to be able to act quickly and work efficiently to prevent crises. Civil society, he added, must be able to play a crucial role in protecting against and addressing violations.

Zoller said the resolution recalled certain language and concepts heard during the Cold War when the Soviet Union also invoked the idea of “mutually beneficial cooperation”. “The procedure put in place by the Chinese resolution involves putting an extra layer around the system of special procedures [such as independent investigations] and increasing pressure on them,” Zoller declared.  It amounts, he said, to an attempt to “kill the messenger” and complicate the work of the special rapporteurs who carry it.   “It attempts to do this by ignoring the monitoring bodies of human rights conventions [and returning] to the principle of non-interference.”

John Fisher, the Geneva-based director of Human Rights Watch, also criticised China’s strategy. His organisation last year issued a reportexternal link warning of Chinese interference in UN human rights mechanisms.

The United States cast the only “no” vote on the resolution, co-sponsored by states including Pakistan and Egypt. US diplomat Jason Mack said China was using its resolution to try to weaken the UN human rights system and norms.  “The ‘feel-good’ language about mutually beneficial cooperation is intended to benefit autocratic states at the expense of people whose human rights and fundamental freedoms we are all obligated as states to respect,” he said.

He added that Chinese spokespeople had clearly been trying to “glorify their head of state by inserting his thoughts into the international human rights lexicon”.

On Monday, China accused the Americans of arrogance for rejecting the Chinese resolution. “I think the comments by this US official in Geneva…were extremely unreasonable, and also reflect the consistent ignorance and haughtiness of the US side,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

Many countries expressed at the meeting that the Chinese resolution reflected the common wishes of the international community and helped raise the ability of developing nations to speak for themselves on human rights issues, Hua added.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/un-human-rights-council-_china-s–win-win–rights-initiative-makes-waves-in-geneva/44000588?&ns_mchannel=rss&srg_evsource=gn

Unfortunately Europe is not stepping up its human rights policy in US absence

March 22, 2018

There is no doubt that Europe is doing more than other regions to support individual human rights defenders and their organisations. The statement issued on 27 February 2018 to mark World NGO Day by EU High Representative Fedrica Mogherini says all the right things: “Civil society organisations are a voice for those who are too often not heard. They have the courage to stand up against injustices, even if sometimes with risks for themselves”. She noted that the EU’s annual support worth two billion Euros represents 73 percent of the world’s support to local civil society organisations. “The European Union will never leave human rights defenders and civil society organisations alone; it’s the most invaluable partnership we can rely on to protect rights and build opportunities.”
Still, there are also critical voices concerning what Europe is doing or not doing e.g. with regard to the increasingly harsh treatment of migrants (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 7 March).[see recent post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/19/ahmed-h-personifies-the-real-danger-of-populist-anti-terror-measures/]
Moreover, there is growing disappointment over the region’s unwillingness to stand up for human rights in its foreign policy, especially from those who had hoped that Europe would be able step up when the USA is no longer leading. Two lengthy pieces attest to this:
The first is by on 21 March 2018 under the title “The European Union has decided that it’s time to cuddle up to dictators’ in the Washington Post

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (in green tie) meets with other officials in Brussels on Wednesday. (Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has just set a new low for Europe’s standing in the world. In the wake of Russia’s sham presidential election on Sunday, Juncker sent the victorious Vladimir Putin a message of unctuous praise. “Congratulations on your re-election,” Juncker tweeted. ……..Just like the United States’ President Trump, who was widely criticized this week for congratulating Putin on the Russian election’s outcome while failing to mention its flagrantly undemocratic character, Juncker had nothing to say about the brazen ballot stuffing, the intimidation of independent candidates, the unexplained deaths of activists, the role of state media, or a host of other irregularities leading up to the poll.

This latest failure of moral courage once again shows the growing indifference of European leaders and governments to the defense of human rights. At a time when the Trump administration seems uninterested in advancing the cause of democracy overseas and has just chosen Gina Haspel, who is closely linked with the George W. Bush administration’s policies on torture, to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Europe should be at the forefront in taking a united stand against the flagrant abuse of human rights. But it isn’t. Dissidents and activists pushing for civil rights and democracy outside the E.U., and who once looked to Europe as a beacon for the values of freedom, can count on little support from Brussels these days. Authoritarian regimes have every cause to be overjoyed.

…When Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, took the floor at last month’s annual Munich Security Conference, he was, once again, treated with kid gloves. Forget about the torture, the executions, the flogging, the deaths during detention.

…French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have rolled out the red carpet for Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sissi — despite a crackdown on opposition that in its harshness has left the Hosni Mubarak regime far behind. Disappearances, torture, police brutality, detentions without trial: None of this seems to bother the French or German leaders. “Disgraceful policies of indulgence” was the term human rights activists used in connection with Sissi’s visit to Paris in October.

On China, the E.U. has completely discredited itself in the eyes of reformers and those struggling for human rights. It has criticized neither the Communist Party’s state-of-the art mass surveillance of its citizens nor the constant harassment and imprisonment of dissidents. Indeed, in June the E.U. failed, for the first time ever, to make a statement about China’s crackdown on dissidents and activists at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva. The 28 member states couldn’t agree. (Greece blocked the statement. ..Athens didn’t want to offend Beijing). Hungary, which has also benefited from Chinese investments, has repeatedly blocked E.U. statements criticizing China’s rights record under Communist President Xi Jinping, according to diplomats.

….But there can be no hiding the shameful reality. Europe has lost its moral compass. Its current enthusiasm for interests and “stability” will one day come back to haunt it.

The second piece is by FLORIAN IRMINGER on 22 March 2018 in Open Democracy under the title Council of Europe: don’t compromise on human rights in Russia!”

After congratulating Vladimir Putin on re-election, the COE must hold Russia accountable and require the same respect for fundamental freedoms as it does from other countries. In the past year, Russia has seen numerous violations of freedom of assembly, as well as politically motivated criminal investigations dogged by poor evidence and procedure. While Vladimir Putin won the recent presidential election, he made his country fail a much more important test: the test of human rights, freedoms, and space for civil society and independent voices. So why has Thorbjørn Jagland and the Council of Europe welcomed him as a winner? …This came shortly after the OSCE election observation mission concluded that the presidential election took place in an “overly controlled legal and political environment marked by continued pressure on critical voices.”

…Instead of abiding by his mission to defend the Convention and therefore highlighting the shortcomings during election day and the generally repressive climate, the Secretary General “hoped” for active engagement with Russia. He spoke of “our common duty to work together in order to consolidate and strengthen our common European legal and human rights space.” 

The Council of Europe must hold Russia accountable and require the same respect for fundamental freedoms as it does from other countries

Since Vladimir Putin’s re-accession to the presidency in 2012 – and the fully devoted Duma elected in 2011 – 50 laws have been adopted “designed to strangle opposition voices and raise the level of fear and self-control in the society,” as reported by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/18/fidh-collected-russias-50-anti-democracy-laws/]

In light of President Putin’s internal policies, we need a Council of Europe that stands firm on its values and upholds the human rights obligations enriched in the European Convention for Human Rights. What we see instead is a Secretary General “touring European capitals [since November 2017] warning of a serious risk that Moscow could withdraw… unless its demands are met.”

 

..Russia has now said it will stop contributing financially to the Council of Europe. At the Council of Europe, just like at the United Nations with President Trump’s administration, we see that governments are willing to defund the structures with which they disagree. In other words, they institute a relativism in such mechanisms and threaten their ability to continue working independently and serve the purpose they were set up for: holding governments accountable to their own commitments. 

Yes, we must fight for the European Convention to apply to as many citizens as possible in Europe. However, we must not shy away from saying that the cost of withdrawing from the Council of Europe is high for the Russian state, for its credibility at home and abroad. The Council of Europe is worth something. If states can be members at no cost – not even the cost of showing respect and cooperation to the organisation – it will soon be worth nothing….

—–

https://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2697509&language=en

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-un/u-n-rights-chief-attacks-eu-and-u-s-over-migrants-and-dreamers-idUSKCN1GJ1IZ

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2018/03/21/the-european-union-has-decided-that-its-time-to-cuddle-up-to-dictators/?utm_term=.f50fe466fd4f

https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/florian-irminger/do-not-compromise-on-russian-human-rights

China and the UN Human Rights Council: really Win-Win?

March 7, 2018

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on Wednesday 7 March that China’s actions on human rights did not match its words and the level of respect for basic liberties remained low in the country. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein did so in his annual report on human rights in the world to the UN Human Rights Council, “President Xi Jinping has called for ‘people-centred development for win-win outcomes as part of a community of shared future for mankind’, a commendable ambition. Sadly, China’s global ambitions on are seemingly not mirrored by its record at home,” he said.

My office continues to receive urgent appeals regarding arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and discrimination, emanating from defenders, lawyers, legislators, booksellers, and members of communities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs,” he added. Hussein said many of the cases involved people fighting against economic, social and cultural injustices such as corruption, illegal seizure of land and forced evictions or destruction of cultural sites.

Before the start of  the current session of the UN Human Rights Council twenty NGOs had called on all member states to hold China accountable at the UN Human Rights Council, appears from a piece by the ISHR on 26 February 2018

In a private letter sent to select UN Member States, the NGOs called for clear and concrete actions to denounce China’s current rollback in respect for human rights at the UN Human Rights Council.

The organisations highlight five cases of human rights defenders that would benefit from further pressure being brought to bear on the Chinese government. They include:

  • Liu Xia, a poet kept under house arrest after the death of her husband, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, in July 2017
  • Wang Quanzhang, a rights lawyer held incommunicado since 9 July 2015
  • Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen arbitrarily detained in China since he vanished from Thailand in October 2015
  • Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan cultural rights and education advocate who has been detained more than two years on charges of inciting separatism (a press release by a group of UN experts on 21 February)
  • Yu Wensheng, a prominent human rights lawyer disbarred, then arbitrarily detained, in January 2018.

The organisations urge the governments to:

….This year is particularly important, as human rights defenders inside and outside China prepare for the country’s next Universal Periodic Review, scheduled for November 2018. The letter to governments concludes: ‘For human rights defenders to have the courage to engage in this important process, with all the risks that it entails, it’s critical that they know that they are not alone’.

(Amnesty International, China Labour Bulletin, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, the International Commission of Jurists,  the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the International Service for Human Rights, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, PEN America, Swedish PEN, the Tibet Advocacy Coalition (comprised of the International Tibet Network Secretariat, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibet Initiative Deutschland, Tibet Justice Center, and Tibetan Youth Association in Europe), and the World Uyghur Congress.)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/03/05/chinas-win-win-resolution-anything

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/china-shows-little-respect-for-human-rights-un-high-commissioner-118030701132_1.html

https://www.ishr.ch/news/china-ngos-call-states-hold-china-accountable-un-human-rights-council

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in last Council Statement does not mince words

February 28, 2018

 “Given this is my last address as high commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt,” outgoing U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on 26 February 2018. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/] And he was: Zeid delivered one of the strongest and clearest denunciations from a top U.N. official about the Security Council veto. He didn’t mention specific vetoes, but the context made crystal clear he referred to war in Syria, over which Russia and China have repeatedly used the veto to block efforts such as to hold war criminals to account or punish Assad’s government for alleged use of chemical weapons. Zeid instead spoke more broadly and decried “some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times“: Syria, the Ituri and Kasai regions of Congo; the embattled city of Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; and Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.  He denounced the “minimal action” taken even though his office has repeatedly exposed human rights violations that “should have served as a trigger for preventive action.“The High Commissioner stated that the five permanent, veto-wielding council members “must answer to the victims” if the veto is used to block any action that could reduce human suffering. “Second to those who are criminally responsible — those who kill and maim — the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council,” he said Still, Zeid praised France for “commendable leadership” for its recent push for a code of conduct on use of the veto, which he said Britain and more than 115 countries have supported. “It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto,” he said.

Another outspoken statement that lead to furious reactions concerned especially some eastern european states: “Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary‘s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?”  This led to Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó  urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to resign. “It is not acceptable for an employee of an international organization to make such disgusting accusations. The Supreme Commissioner must resign, “Szijjártó said. “We have to defend our borders and we will make every effort to clarify the full stance in the UN debate on migration“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/]

For the full text of the High Commissioner’s speech delivered on 26 February 2018 in Geneva see below:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/united-nations-zeid-raad-al-hussein-russia-china-us-security-council-veto/
http://www.novinite.com/articles/188279/Hungary+Wants+the+Resignation+of+the+United+Nations+High+Commissioner+for+Human+Rights%2C+who+Called+Victor+Orban+%22Racist%22
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-u-n-human-rights-chief-blasts-1519666939-htmlstory.html

——

37th session of the Human Rights Council: Opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (Published on 26 Feb 2018)

Distinguished President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Secretary General,
Excellencies,
Friends,

May I begin by welcoming the Security Council’s unanimous decision in relation to a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which came after intense lobbying by our Secretary-General and others, and we applaud Sweden and Kuwait for their leadership in the Security Council on this. We insist on its full implementation without delay. However, we have every reason to remain cautious, as airstrikes on eastern Ghouta continue this morning. Resolution 2401 (2018) must be viewed against a backdrop of seven years of failure to stop the violence: seven years of unremitting and frightful mass killing.

Eastern Ghouta, the other besieged areas in Syria; Ituri and the Kasais in the DRC; Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; Northern Rakhine in Myanmar have become some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times, because not enough was done, early and collectively, to prevent the rising horrors. Time and again, my office and I have brought to the attention of the international community violations of human rights which should have served as a trigger for preventive action. Time and again, there has been minimal action. And given this is my last address as High Commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt.

Second to those who are criminally responsible – those who kill and those who maim – the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. So long as the veto is used by them to block any unity of action, when it is needed the most, when it could reduce the extreme suffering of innocent people, then it is they – the permanent members – who must answer before the victims.

France has shown commendable leadership among the P5 in championing a code of conduct on the use of veto; the United Kingdom has also joined the initiative, now backed by over 115 countries. It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto.

Mr. President,

A few miles away, at CERN, physicists try to understand what our planet, and the universe or universes, are made of. What matter is, at the most basic level, and how it all fits together. To understand the physical world, we humans have long realised we must tunnel deeply, beyond molecular biology and geology; and go to those sub-atomic spaces for answers.

Why do we not do the same when it comes to understanding the human world? Why, when examining the political and economic forces at work today, do we not zoom in more deeply? How can it be so hard to grasp that to understand states and societies – their health and ills; why they survive; why they collapse – we must scrutinize at the level of the individual: individual human beings and their rights. After all, the first tear in the fabric of peace often begins with a separation of the first few fibres, the serious violations of the rights of individuals – the denial of economic and social rights, civil and political rights, and most of all, in a persistent denial of freedom.

There is another parallel with physics. Gravity is a weak force, easily defied by a small child raising a finger, but there is also a strong force governing the orbits of planets and the like. So too with human rights. Some States view human rights as of secondary value – far less significant than focusing on GDP growth or geopolitics. While it is one of the three pillars of the UN, it is simply not treated as the equal of the other two. The size of the budget is telling enough, and the importance accorded to it often seems to be in the form of lip service only. Many in New York view it condescendingly as that weak, emotional, Geneva-centred, pillar — not serious enough for some of the hardcore realists in the UN Security Council.

Yet like in physics, we also know human rights to be a strong force, perhaps the strongest force. For whenever someone in New York calls a topic “too sensitive,” there’s a good chance human rights are involved. And why sensitive? Because a denial of rights hollows out a government’s legitimacy. Every time the phrase “too sensitive” is used, it therefore confirms the supreme importance of human rights, and their effect as a strong force.

For no tradition, legal or religious, calls for or supports oppression – none. Discussions about rights are avoided by those who seek deflection because of guilt, those who shy away from difficult decisions and those who profit from a more superficial, simple, and ultimately useless, analysis. Better just leave it to Geneva, they say – and the crises continue to grow.

To understand the maladies of societies, grasp the risks of conflict, and prevent or resolve them we must — like particle physicists – work ourselves into the smaller spaces of individuals and their rights, and ask the most basic questions there. The most devastating wars of the last 100 years did not come from countries needing more GDP growth. They stemmed from – and ¡ quote from the Universal Declaration – a “disregard and contempt for human rights”. They stemmed from oppression.

Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?

Mr. President,

Perhaps we have gone mad, when families grieve in too many parts of the world for those lost to brutal terrorism, while others suffer because their loved ones are arrested arbitrarily, tortured or killed at a black site, and were called terrorists for simply having criticized the government; and others await execution for crimes committed when they were children. While still more can be killed by police with impunity, because they are poor; or when young girls in El Salvador are sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for miscarriages; when transgender women in Aceh are punished and humiliated in public. When Nabeel Rajab is sentenced to five years for alleging torture; or when 17 year-old Ahed Tamimi is tried on 12 counts for slapping a soldier enforcing a foreign occupation. When journalists are jailed in huge numbers in Turkey, and the Rohingya are dehumanized, deprived and slaughtered in their homes – with all these examples bedevilling us, why are we doing so little to stop them, even though we should know how dangerous all of this is?

It is accumulating unresolved human rights violations such as these, and not a lack of GDP growth, which will spark the conflicts that can break the world. While our humanitarian colleagues tend to the victims – and we salute their heroism and their selflessness – their role is not to name or single out the offenders publicly. That task falls to the human rights community, that it is our task. For it is the worst offenders’ disregard and contempt for human rights which will be the eventual undoing of all of us. This, we cannot allow to happen.

We will therefore celebrate, with passion, the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which incarnates rights common to all the major legal and religious traditions. We will defend it, in this anniversary year, more vigorously than ever before and along with our moral leaders – the human rights defenders in every corner of the globe – we will call for everyone to stand up for the rights of others.

This is, in the end, a very human thing to do. Artificial intelligence will never fully replicate the moral courage, the self-sacrifice and, above all, the love for all human beings that sets human rights defenders apart from everyone else. As I close out my term as High Commissioner in the coming months, I wish to end this statement by saying it has been the honour of my life to have come to know many of these defenders; to have worked with them, and for them.

Thank you.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/37th-session-human-rights-council-opening-statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights