Posts Tagged ‘High Commissioner for Human Rights’

Not so diplomatic Diplomat of the Year: Zeid

June 15, 2018

Hussein

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, who serves as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights but is leaving soon [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/] was named “2018 Career Diplomat of the Year

Here is his speech to Foreign Policy on 14 June 2018:

Good evening to you all. I must confess I was astounded as well as delighted to receive an award for diplomacy. Over the past few years, I have been attacked and trolled in various ways, but never have I been described as being diplomatic. Still, diplomacy properly defined is the peaceful arrangement of relations between states. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based on two core premises. One: every human being has inherent dignity, and all of us have equal and inalienable rights. Recognition of those rights, and I quote the first line of the preamble, is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.

Four years as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights has brought me many luminous encounters with women and men of immense dignity and principle, a number of desperately important life-saving struggles, much shocking and painful information, and some lessons, profound lessons which may take many years to fully assimilate. I hope to share a few of them with you tonight.

But first I want to circle back, as I have constantly done and found myself doing throughout my mandate, to the Universal Declaration and to the context in which it was drafted.

Forgive me, but I am a historian by training. This is truly where the story begins. It was at time of slaughter and terrible suffering, with broken economies and nations emerging from the ashes of two world wars, an immense genocide, atomic destruction, and the Great Depression. Finding solutions that could ensure global and national peace was a matter of the starkest kind of survival; committing to the U.N. charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was desperately important. They were not philosophical goals. This was life and death.

There will be, to use the refrain, no peace without justice. There will be no durable development without the promotion of broad social progress and better standards of life for all, and larger freedom. The men and women who survived the two world wars understood this, utterly. It was in their bones.

Leaders of states understood it and knew they must draft and hold to international laws which would ensure collective action within and peaceful relationships within and between states.

Treaty after treaty, they built a body of laws and covenants and committed to implementing them. And there was, there is, great cynicism about the global order they constructed, never fully global, never fully orderly.

But although it may have been partial, the progress they ensured was immense. That generation is quickly disappearing and with them the memory of the lessons that were so painfully clear to them.

The world, instead of advancing towards greater freedom, justice, and peace, is going backwards, to a landscape of increasingly strident zero-sum nationalism, where the jealously guarded short-term interests of individual leaders supplant and destroy efforts to find common solutions.

Backwards to an era of contempt for the rights of people who have been forced to flee or leave their homes because the threats they face are more dangerous even than the perils of their voyage.

Backwards to a time of proxy wars at the knife edge of sparking regional and global conflicts.

A time when military operations could deliberately target civilians and civilian sites such as hospitals.

A time when chemicals were openly used for military purposes and against innocent families.

Backwards to an era where racists and xenophobes deliberately inflame hatred and discrimination among the public while carefully cloaking themselves in the guise of democracy and the rule of law.

Backwards to an era when women were not permitted to control their own choices and their own bodies.

Backwards to an era where criticism was criminalized and human rights activism brought jail or worse.

This is the way wars are made. With the smarm of belligerence and the smirk of dehumanization. With the incremental erosion of old and seemingly wearisome checks.

The path to violence is made up of the unreckoned consequences of banal, incidental brutality seeping into the political landscape.

It is shaped by leadership that is both thuggish and infantile, petulant, cultivating grievances to reap votes and sowing humiliation, oppression, and hatred, and disregard for the greater common good.

Here is one lesson: Intolerance is an insatiable machine. Its wheels, once they begin to function at a certain amplitude, become uncontrollable. Grinding deeper, more crudely, and more widely.

First, one group of people is singled out for hatred, then more and more, as the machine for exclusion accelerates into crimes, and civil and international warfare, feeding always on its own rage, a growing frenzy of grievance and blaming.

As that tension begins to peak, no obvious mechanism exists that is capable of decompressing and controlling its intensity, because the machine functions on an emotional level that has very little contact with reason.

Release may only come after tremendous violence. This, in the human rights community, is something we have witnessed time and again.

We are at a pivotal moment in history now as contempt for human rights spreads. Xenophobes and racists have emerged from the shadows. Backlash is growing against advances made in women’s rights, Ireland notwithstanding, and many others. The space for civic activism is shrinking. The legitimacy of human rights principles is attacked. And the practice of human rights norms is in retreat.

What we are destroying is quite simply the structures that ensure our safety. The destruction of Syria is a murderous parable written in blood, which brings home yet again the horrific spiraling of incremental human rights violations into absolute destruction. The organized campaigns of violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar, which was Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economy in 2016 yet again reminds us that economic growth will never maintain peace and security in the face of biting discrimination. In 2017, only last year, we once again saw the specter of possible genocide, and once again we did very little to stop it from happening.

In a sentence, what is the one core lesson brought home to me by the extraordinary privilege, crushing mandate as High Commissioner, is that in every circumstance the safety of humanity will only be secured through vision, energy, and generosity of spirit. Through activism, through the struggle of greater freedom, equality, and through justice. I thank you so much for your attention.

2018 Career Diplomat of the Year Zeid Raad al-Hussein: Read the Transcript

Human Rights Council 2018 on the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

March 23, 2018

The Human Rights Council concluded on 22 March 2018  its general debate on the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General. The Council started the general debate on Wednesday, 21 March after hearing the presentation of reports on Burundi, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Cyprus and Iran, and a summary can be seen here.

In the general discussion, delegations noted that some progress was being made to improve the human rights situations in those countries, but much remained to be done. Speakers stressed the relevance of protecting civil society actors and human rights defenders, including in the context of implementing peace agreements and pursuing reconciliation plans. States were commended for cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other United Nations mechanisms, and were urged to prioritize efforts to combat impunity and to prosecute perpetrators of rights violations.

Speaking were the delegations of the United States; Australia; Georgia; Belgium; Israel; Norway; United Nations Children’s Fund; Canada; Denmark; Morocco; Greece; Algeria; Turkey; Ireland; and Netherlands as well as a large number of NGOs.

For those interested to know more of this General Debate on the Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I refer to Reliefweb which carries regularly summaries of what happens at the Council.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-concludes-general-debate-annual-report-high-commissioner-human

New human rights award: music to our ears!

December 8, 2017

The annual award will be presented in fall 2018 during the High Note Honors Concert in London. Proceeds from the concert and its worldwide broadcast will benefit the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Grammy Museum and the prize winner’s social justice charity of choice. The award will soon be added to THF’s Digest of Human Rights Awards: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest.

Courtesy of High Note Project

The High Note Music Prize is part of the High Note Project, a new global social justice initiative launched by philanthropic producer David Clark. Clark previously collaborated with Nelson Mandela on the 46664 series of charity concerts in support of HIV/AIDS, featuring performances by the likes of Bono, Beyoncé, Queenand The Eurythmics. Clark is an executive producer of the project as is Chantel Sausedo, whose other credits include producing the Grammy Awards for TV, the Laureus World Sports Awards and In Performance At The White House specials. 

Stuart Galbraith, CEO and founder of Kilimanjaro Live — the U.K. promoter behind heavy metal festival Sonisphere and the U.K. and European legs of the Vans Warped Tour — will be co-producing the Honors Concert in London. “We’re both pleased and proud to have been selected as the promoter of the High Note Honors Concert, which will be a significant global event for music and the artists of our time that are passionate about making a difference in the lives of others,” Galbraith said in a statement.

During the concert broadcast, the prize winner’s selected charity will also benefit from a Cause Flash social media campaign that aims to reach over 1 billion people worldwide. Conceived by Clark, Cause Flash was the digital platform behind Water Now, a social media campaign in support of UN World Water Day in 2015 that reached over 800 million people in seven days, marking the largest such campaign in history.

The High Note Project is supported by the UN Human Rights Office, which is launching a yearlong campaign on UN Human Rights Day to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. As this anniversary approaches, “the need for people to stand up to protect human rights is more vital than ever,” Laurent Sauveur, director of external affairs for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement. “Music is also a force to be reckoned with, and musicians have the power to mobilize. We are proud to help launch The High Note Project and High Note Music Prize in an effort to galvanize global awareness of the importance of human rights, and at the same time honor artists who passionately use their work to promote and protect the rights of others.

GRAMMY-nominated singer and social justice advocate Andra Day, whose song “Rise Up” became an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement, has also voiced her support for the Project: “I admire the mission of High Note and its decision to recognize musicians for their contributions through song”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/28/and-the-nominees-are-oscars-for-human-rights/

https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8062606/united-nations-high-note-music-prize-human-rights-award

Myanmar: time for Aung San Suu Kyi to return (at least some of) her many human rights awards?

September 3, 2017

While receiving sharply worded emails and social media messages that the Rohingyas in Myanmar do not exist or have been ‘invented by the Saudis’, other more sober contributions put the serious question – whether with hindsight – Aung San Suu Kyi should not give back the many international awards she has received.  Aung San Suu Kyi is the recipient of at least 15 international awards (e.g. Nobel Peace Prize, Rafto, Sakharov, AI’s Ambassador of Conscience, Vaclav Havel Price for Creative Dissent). The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence (SIC) seems especially awkward.

Almost a year ago I referred in a blog post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/20/how-awards-can-get-it-wrong-four-controversial-decisions-in-one-week/] to “a serious expression of concern by an ethnic minority: Prensa Latina reported on 19 September that hundreds of Muslim students demonstrated against the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award 2016 given to Minister of State of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi by the Harvard Foundation. According to the website of the Harvard Foundation recent prizes of that foundation were given to education activist Malala Yousafzai, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. According to the Mizzima news agency, the young people consider that Aung San Suu Kyi does nothing to handle the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. According to the local press, Suu Kyi herself considered, while receiving the prize, that in her country there is still a long way to go before saying that the people are free and safe.

Now Reuters reports that about 120,000 people – mostly displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims – in Rakhine camps are not receiving food supplies or healthcare after contractors for the World Food Program suspended operations following the government accusations. Staff have been too afraid to show up for work. “As a result of the disruption of activities in central Rakhine state, many people are not receiving their normal food assistance and primary healthcare services have been severe disrupted,” said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Suu Kyi’s government refuses to allow UN investigators and the media access to parts of Rakhine where rights monitors fear a campaign of ethnic cleansing is underway.

Suu Kyi was idolised while spending 15 years as a prisoner of Myanmar’s army generals. Now she refuses to speak up for 1.1 million stateless and long persecuted Rohingya. She may not control her country’s armed forces but, since taking high office, Suu Kyi has refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya in any meaningful way. She deflects questions about the persecution of Rohingya, saying only the “rule of law” must apply in Rakhine. She also dismisses the independent UN inquiry as “not suitable for the situation of our country.”

……Some human rights activists who campaigned for years for Suu Kyi’s release when she was a political prisoner now feel a deep sense of betrayal from the woman they formerly saw as a heroine. Perhaps it is time for her to hand back her Noble Peace Prize. (The story The ‘human catastrophe’ that betrays Suu Kyi’s Nobel prize first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.)

Front line Defenders reported on 2 August that human rights defender Ko Swe Win was prevented from travelling and detained in connection with defamation charges on 30 July 2017,  at Yangon International Airport as he was trying to fly  to Bangkok. He was reportedly taken into police custody in relation to a defamation case brought by a follower of extremist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, who told the police he believed Ko Swe Win was attempting to flee the country. Despite the defamation lawsuit filed against him, no travel restrictions were issued against Ko Swe Win. The human rights defender was released on bail on 31 July 2017. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/23/burma-continued-prosecution-of-human-rights-defenders-and-peaceful-demonstrators/

Sources:

http://sea-globe.com/myanmar-war-on-terror/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ko-swe-win

Arakan and traces of blood on Nobel Prize – Saadet Oruç – Daily Sabah

http://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/4896812/the-human-catastrophe-that-betrays-suu-kyis-nobel-prize/?cs=4141

Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a defender of human rights

April 14, 2016

I have had quite a few post on Navi Pillay as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/navi-pillay/]  before and after her term [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/navanethem-pillay-finishes-her-term-as-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-a-great-lady/]. So when the Toronto Star ( Immigration reporter) did an interview with this remarkable woman on 12 April 2016, I am happy to bring it to your attention. She was the recipient of the 2003 Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights and the 2010 Stockhom Human Rights Award.

“Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a champion for human rights”

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Important and wide-ranging statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 10 March 2016

March 11, 2016

There is a lot happening in Geneva (where I am for a few days) in relation to human rights defenders. The best I can do for the moment is to provide in full the very rich text of the UN High Commissioner’s statement in the debate in the UN Human Rights Council on 10 March: Read the rest of this entry »

What is Burundi doing in the UN Human Rights Council?

February 8, 2016

Burundi is still one of the basket cases in Africa and since my lats post nothing has improved [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-need/].  The Special Session of the Human Rights Council in December 2015 mandated the High Commissioner for Human Rights to put together an expert mission to Burundi, to investigate abuses and make recommendations to the Council and the Burundian government on ways of ending serious human rights violations. But the follow-up is below par: Read the rest of this entry »

Less veto in mass atrocities can save lives including those of human rights defenders

September 29, 2014

In an important statement to a Ministerial meeting of the General Assembly on Regulating the veto in the event of mass atrocities, the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseinmade some crucial points. He said that in recent years, the Security Council‘s “inability to take decisive action regarding a number of appalling crises has led to enormous, avoidable, human suffering. It has shaken confidence in our own institutions. It has granted time and space to the perpetrators to commit more violations, and made them far less likely to provide access to UN officials or to respond to their concerns.” Therefore, he added, “From the human rights perspective, the adoption of a code of conduct on use of the veto, in very specific circumstances where well-founded facts demonstrate that international crimes are occurring or about to occur, would demonstrate on the part of the permanent members of the Council that quality of leadership and responsibility which our world so badly needs.

Full text: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15103&LangID=E 

ISIL kills human rights defender Sameera Salih Ali Al-Nuaimy

September 26, 2014

 

Sameera Salih Ali Al-Nuaimy

The United Nations human rights High Commissioner for human rights today condemned the recent brutal, cold-blooded slaying by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) of Iraqi human rights defender Sameera Salih Ali Al-Nuaimy, as well as the continuing detention, sexual exploitation and sale of hundreds of women and girls in areas captured by the militant group. Read the rest of this entry »

Navanethem Pillay finishes her term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: a great lady

July 9, 2014

In September 2014, Navanethem (Navi) Pillay will finish her term as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Since her appointment in 2008, she has been a principled and dedicated advocate for universal human rights, the protection of human rights defenders, accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, and access to justice for victims. She has encouraged her staff to speak out and has done so herself courageously. Unanimity about her performance should not be expected – for that the topics she had to deal with are too controversial – but the human rights world generally has seen her as a ‘champion’ and one of them.
To get some idea of the scope of her involvement in favour of human rights defenders, see some of my 20 previous posts: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/navi-pillay/

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