Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy of the USA’

Putting the ‘record straight’ on the UN Human Rights Council

June 19, 2017

Earlier this month I referred to a speech by Ms Haley about the USA considering withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/07/us-ambassador-nikki-haley-on-what-has-to-change-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]. A lot has been written about this but a good, concise piece was in the Economist of 3 June 2017. In particular getting the ‘facts’ right about the relative improvements in recent years:

..Yet the council is a lot better than the commission was, and is still improving. The most important difference is the system of “universal periodic reviews” that all members of the UN are subjected to, at a rate of about 40 a year. The number of special rapporteurs, most of them truly independent, has risen, too. Since 2011 there have been investigations into human-rights abuses in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Libya and North Korea, as well as Gaza. The council has steadfastly monitored the horrors in Syria and played a helpful role in Myanmar, Colombia and (after a poor start) Sri Lanka.

The disproportionate focus on Israel is lessening. From 2010 to 2016 only one special session was held on Israel/Palestine, down from six in the previous four years, says the council’s spokesman. The share of time spent on Item 7 has halved, to 8%.

The quality of members may improve, too, as regional groups are a bit less willing to shield their own. Last year Russia lost its seat, receiving 32 votes fewer than Hungary, and two fewer than Croatia. In the past few years Belarus, Iran, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Syria have failed to be elected or have withdrawn their candidacies. None of the nine worst human-rights offenders, as ranked by Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO, (Syria, Eritrea, North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea) has ever been elected to the council. In a telling moment in 2014, a forcefully critical resolution on Sri Lanka was passed.

Things started to change in 2010, says Marc Limon, a British former official in the council, who now heads the Universal Rights Group, a Geneva-based think-tank, when a clutch of independent-minded countries, including Mauritius, Mexico and Morocco, began to vote more freely, often for American-backed resolutions. Before then, members of the 57-strong Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and the African Group (whose members often overlapped and later reconfigured as the Like-Minded Group) “virtually controlled the council”, he says. Anti-Westerners have recently been defeated or forced to compromise on several issues. A resolution to exempt blasphemy from free-speech protections was fended off against the wishes of the Like-Minded. The same group failed to block a resolution to appoint an independent expert to investigate discrimination against gay and transgender people.

American diplomacy under Barack Obama was a big reason for the shift….

Source: The UN Human Rights Council will be weaker if America leaves

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on what has to change in the UN Human Rights Council

June 7, 2017

On 6 June 2017 the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,  Nikki Haley, made a speech at the the Graduate Institute of Geneva on “A Place for Conscience: the Future of the United States in the Human Rights Council”.  The full text you can find in the link below. Here some of the most relevant parts concerning changes desired by the USA ……
When the Human Rights Council has acted with clarity and integrity, it has advanced the cause of human rights. It has brought the names of prisoners of conscience to international prominence and given voice to the voiceless. At times, the Council has placed a spotlight on individual country violators and spurred action, including convening emergency sessions to address the war crimes being committed by the Assad regime in Syria. The Council’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea led to the Security Council action on human rights abuses there. The Council is at its best when it is calling out human rights violators and abuses, and provoking positive action. It changes lives. It pushes back against the tide of cynicism that is building in our world. And it reassures us that it deserves our continued investment of time and treasure.

But there is a truth that must be acknowledged by anyone who cares about human rights: When the Council fails to act properly – when it fails to act at all – it undermines its own credibility and the cause of human rights. ……These problems were supposed to have been fixed when the new Council was formed. Sadly, the case against the Human Rights Council today looks an awful lot like the case against the discredited Human Rights Commission over a decade ago. Once again, over half the current member countries fail to meet basic human rights standards as measured by Freedom House. Countries like Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi, and Saudi Arabia occupy positions that obligate them to, in the words of the resolution that created the Human Rights Council, “uphold the highest standards” of human rights. They clearly do not uphold those highest standards.

…….

I dedicated the U.S. presidency of the Security Council in April to making the connection between human rights and peace and security. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/20/us-pushes-for-historic-human-rights-debate-at-security-council-but-achieves-little/]

This is a cause that is bigger than any one organization. If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change. If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the Council.America does not seek to leave the Human Rights Council. We seek to reestablish the Council’s legitimacy.

There are a couple of critically necessary changes.

First, the UN must act to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats on the Council. As it stands, elections for membership to the Council are over before the voting even begins. Regional blocs nominate slates of pre-determined candidates that never face any competition for votes……Selection of members must occur out in the open for all to see. The secret ballot must be replaced with open voting. Countries that are willing to support human rights violators to serve on the Human Rights Council must be willing to show their faces. They know who they are. It’s time for the world to know who they are.

Second, the Council’s Agenda Item Seven must be removed. This, of course, is the scandalous provision that singles out Israel for automatic criticism. There is no legitimate human rights reason for this agenda item to exist….Since its creation, the Council has passed more than 70 resolutions targeting Israel. It has passed just seven on Iran. ….Getting rid of Agenda Item Seven would not give Israel preferential treatment. Claims against Israel could still be brought under Agenda Item Four, just as claims can be brought there against any other country. Rather, removal of Item Seven would put all countries on equal footing.

These changes are the minimum necessary to resuscitate the Council as a respected advocate of universal human rights……

Source: Ambassador Nikki Haley: Remarks at the Graduate Institute of Geneva » US Mission Geneva

The end of USA’s human rights policy as we know it?

May 4, 2017

Under the strong title “Tillerson shows why he was a rotten choice to head the State Department describes in the Washington Post of 4 May 2017 how a long tradition of human rights policy by the USA may be coming to an end.

Read the rest of this entry »

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:

Read the rest of this entry »

2017 (8): Human Rights Movement Must Come Together to Resist Trump’s Agenda

January 28, 2017

In the Huffington Post of 27 January 2017 David TolbertPresident of the International Center for Transitional Justice, wrote: “Human Rights Movement Must Come Together to Resist Trump’s Agenda”.  In the piece he says many useful things especially that “it is clear that a coalition of forces must emerge in American civil society to provide the backbone of resistance to the Trump agenda.” Here some excerpts:

(see also https://plus.google.com/+HansThoolen/posts/hNZtNKR5KKL)

….

– Trump has rushed headlong into creating further divisions and has begun an assault on human rights and basic decency — including a de facto ban on many Muslim refugees from entering the United States and the resurrection of CIA “black sites“ — and promises more to come. 

– The new president exalts torture, mocks the disabled, casts aspersions on those who defend human rights, appeals to racist sentiments through coded and not-so-coded language and denigrates women in both word and deed.

– He shows no regard for the Geneva Conventions or the painstaking work of generations of human rights activists, many of them American, to ensure that civilians are not abused in times of conflict and that the vulnerable are protected. 

– For good measure, he seems to demean virtually every restraint that protects the citizen from the state. His first call as president to a foreign leader was to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, who crushed the protests against army rule, devastated Egypt’s civil society with draconian laws targeting human rights defenders and turned Egypt’s legal institutions into “kangaroo courts.” A chilling signal indeed.

Say what you will, Trump has clearly laid down the gauntlet that places the most powerful of nations on the side of the privileged and signals that human rights will be honored only in the breach. This can hardly be a surprise, given his campaign rhetoric that called openly for torture and other serious crimes that violate international and domestic law. 

…….

….. The whiff of McCarthyism is in the air for those of us who do not define ourselves as allegiant to Trump’s vision of America.

The inaugural speech and Trump’s first actions also send powerful messages regarding the struggle for human rights across the planet. The consequences of his dark vision will be dire. The record of the United States is patchy at best in terms of promoting human rights abroad, but it has played an important role in a number of areas, commencing with Eleanor Roosevelt’s work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

While its record in Latin America and the Middle East has been particularly deplorable, this country has supported civil society groups in a number of countries and other international initiatives that have promoted accountability for human rights violations. It has worked with other countries and the United Nations to advance the normative agenda that has enshrined human rights in international law and broadly supported the human rights movement in areas such as individual liberties and women’s rights. Mr. Trump will end these efforts in an obvious return to the old adage: “Governments can boil their own people in oil for all we care, as long as they support us.” 

This abdication of American support for human rights will not only undermine those countries that respect human rights but will also embolden those who seek to undermine the United Nations and other institutions that have advocated for and protected those rights. The emerging Trump-Putin partnership will mean that victims of human rights abuses around the world will have nowhere to turn to, as avenues to redress, accountability and acknowledgement of the violations close down.

The question is, what can we do? What is our responsibility as human rights defenders, but also as citizens of the United States and the world at large?

…..

While there is not a single “silver bullet” to take on what we will face ahead, we need to move past “conversations” and start organizing. It is hard to imagine — in this diverse and app-based world of today — that a single organization can take the lead in such a movement, like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (with lots of allies and competition, of course) did for the Civil Rights Movement. However, it is clear that a coalition of forces must emerge in American civil society to provide the backbone of resistance to the Trump agenda. 

We cannot afford atomization along the lines of our specific causes, be they accountability for human rights violations, racial injustice, inequality, LGBTI rights, indigenous rights or other human rights causes we support. If we are to have a chance to stop Trump’s destructive agenda, we must unite and act as a movement as strongly against the Dakota Access Pipeline as against a registry for Muslims or systemic police violence against African-Americans. Our goals in protecting human rights in the United States must be as clearly defined as our actions must be coordinated. 

…..

The time for action and resistance is now. I and the organization that I lead, the International Center for Transitional Justice, have over the years had a great deal of experience in addressing the abuses of regimes across the world that disregard human rights and commit abuses. Once rights and the institutions built to protect them are pushed to the side and the strong man reigns, the path to violations becomes real and the difficulties of re-establishing the rule of law become very steep indeed. The warning signs here in the United States are now laid bare. They should be a call to action for us all.

Source: Human Rights Movement Must Come Together to Resist Trump’s Agenda | The Huffington Post

Bahrain: denationalization, reprisals and travel bans against human rights defenders – will it ever end?

June 23, 2016

Bahrain does everything it can to keep itself in the spotlight of human rights concern. A coalition of NGOs, as well as the UN and (reluctantly) the USA have recently come out with criticism over travel bans, reprisals, denationalization and other violations:

When the 32nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council opened in Geneva on 13 June 2016, Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain’s best-known human rights defender, was arrested after dozens of police officers raided his home at around 5am and confiscated his electronic devices. The day before, Bahraini human rights defenders and victims of violations were prevented from flying to Geneva. On 16 June 21 NGOs signed a statement of serious alarm by Bahrain’s restrictions civil society especially preventing them from engaging with the UN.

[Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR – nominee of the MEA 2012), founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, was reportedly arrested under order from the Ministry of Interior’s Cybercrimes Unit. Bahraini officials had imposed a travel ban on Rajab a year ago, and since April 2015 have maintained charges against him for crimes related to freedom of expression online. Despite the submission of several appeals against the ban, authorities remained unresponsive. On 14 June 2016, Rajab was transferred to the public prosecution; and new charges were brought against him of allegedly ‘publishing and broadcasting false news that undermines the prestige of the state’. The public prosecution remanded him to seven days in detention pending investigation.]

In a new escalation of its crackdown against civil society, Bahraini authorities have now also banned other human rights defenders from leaving the country. The bans were imposed as the activists were attempting to travel to Geneva to participate in the Human Rights Council.

In light of this escalated attack on civil society in Bahrain, the 21 NGOs call for the immediate release of all human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Nabeel Rajab, and for the removal of the imposed travel bans which unfairly restrict activists’ freedom of movement. We also request that the President of the HRC, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift the travel ban imposed on Bahrain’s civil society activists and guarantee Bahraini human rights defenders are free from intimidation and restrictions on their work, including at the UN. We also call on the international community to hold the government of Bahrain to its commitments and obligations to foster a safe environment for the peaceful enjoyment of universal human rights.  The government of Bahrain must immediately stop the ongoing reprisals against human rights defenders who are engaging with international mechanisms including the UN system. [21 signatories to be hound at the bottom of this post.]

On 21 June 2016, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stepped in with an expression of great concern over this intensification of a crackdown on free expression and association, and the right to a nationality: Read the rest of this entry »

Detained Chinese lawyer Wang Yu wins Ludovic Trarieux Prize

June 7, 2016

china-lawyer-wangyu-07202015.jpg

Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu poses during an interview in Hong Kong, March 20, 2014. –  AFP
Radio Free Asia reported on 6 June 2016 that detained (on suspicion of “subversion of state power”) lawyer Wang Yu was awarded the prestigious Ludovic Trarieux Prize in Athens on Saturday. [for more info on award see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/ludovic-trarieux-international-human-rights-prize]. The jury said it wanted to “hail the courage” of a woman who “decided that she could no longer keep her mouth shut,” founder Bernard Favreau said. “She chose to expose herself to dangers in order to defend the rights of women, children and persecuted minorities,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Wang’s attorney Wen Donghai welcomed the award. “They used a serious of objective criteria, for example, the fact that Wang Yu often gave legal assistance to clients from vulnerable groups,” Wen said. “This has nothing to do with any government, nor with diplomacy.” But he said the award is unlikely to help Wang’s case with the Chinese authorities. “I don’t hold out much hope of that, because our government has a very biased attitude to such prizes, and they see human rights groups as trying to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Wen said. “In reality, rights groups aren’t targeting China, but trying to help victims and vulnerable people around the world.” Wang has unfortunately figured regularly in this blog: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/wang-yu/ 

[The award comes as the families of dozens of rights lawyers detained on similar charges hit out at the government for denying the detainees access to their lawyers, and amid concerns that some detainees may have been tortured or sexually abused in police detention centers.]

On 5 June 2016, in a joint letter Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, China Aid, Freedom House, Human Rights in China, Initiatives for China, International Campaign for Tibet, Reporters without Borders, Uyghur Human Rights Project, and World Uygur Congress – urged the US to:
  • Meet with representatives of civil society in China during or immediately after the meeting;
  • Press Chinese counterparts to repeal or bring into line with international law new national security laws, including the Counterterrorism and the Foreign Non-Governmental Management laws;
  • Publicly call for the release of specific individuals detained for peacefully exercising their rights; and
  • Publicly discuss US concerns about growing restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and religion, among others.

In Hong Kong, protesters marched to Beijing’s Liaison Office in the former British colony on Monday, demanding an inquiry into the 2012 “suicide” death of Chinese labor rights activist Li Wangyang in police custody four years ago. Rights activist Ou Biaofeng said Li’s friends and relatives are under house arrest or close police surveillance on the anniversary of his death. “They are all under surveillance by the state security police, and are cooperating

For the Lucovic-Trarieux prize 2015: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/saudi-arabian-human-rights-lawyer-waleed-abu-al-khair-wins-ludovic-trarieux-prize/

Source: Detained Chinese Lawyer Wins Award Amid Calls For Pressure on Human Rights

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/05/us-show-breadth-rights-commitment-china-dialogue

Patt Derian – the rare politician/human rights defender – no longer

May 30, 2016

Being a leading politician and human rights defender does not always go together well. Patricia Murphy (“Patt”) Derian was one of the exceptions. She passed away on 20 May 2016 at the age of 86. She was an American civil rights and human rights activist, who served under President Carter from 1977 to 1981.DERIAN PATT

After Jimmy Carter won the election, he nominated Derian to be Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and elevated the post to that of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs effective August 17, 1977, and Derian served in that capacity for the remainder of the Carter administration. In this post she worked to improve policy coordination on humanitarian issues such as human rights, refugees, and prisoners of war.

Derian was a vocal critic of Jeane Kirkpatrick and of the so-called Kirkpatrick Doctrine during the 1980s, which advocated U.S. support of anticommunist governments around the world, including authoritarian dictatorships, if they went along with Washington’s aims —believing they could be led into democracy by example. Kirkpatrick wrote, “Traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies.” Derian objected to Kirkpatrick’s characterization of some governments as only “moderately repressive,” arguing that this line of thinking allowed the U.S. to support “a little bit of torture” or “moderate” prison sentences for political dissenters. Derian pointed out that, when it comes to human rights, in terms of morality, credibility and effectiveness, “you always have to play it straight.” Read the rest of this entry »

US State Department gives out International Women of Courage Awards 2016

April 8, 2016

Missing in action: Wheelchair-bound human rights advocate Ni Yulan failed to attend the awarding ceremony in the U.S. She told the BBC that her passport was withheld.Photo U.S. Department of State/Flickr

Human rights lawyer and activist Ni Yulan became one of the 2016 recipients of the International Women of Courage Awards conferred by the U.S. Department of State on 29 March. The wheelchair-bound human rights lawyer Ni Yulan from China was not present; she he told the BBC that her passport was withheld.  Yulan Ni won the Dutch Human Rights Tulip in 2011.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/chinese-human-rights-defender-ni-yulan-freed/]

She shares the 2016 recognition from the USA with 13 other women: Read the rest of this entry »

China’s New Age of Fear? China File in Foreign Policy

February 19, 2016

In Foreign Policy’s China File of 18 February 2016 there are 3 contributions worth reading about whether the increased repression under Xi Jinping (disappearances, detention of human rights lawyers, televised confessions, and stepped-up surveillance) is the ‘new normal’?

ChinaFile-logo-89h

Source: China’s New Age of Fear | Foreign Policy