Posts Tagged ‘Wilders’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: “States may shut my Office out – but they will not shut us up”

September 14, 2016

Readers are forgiven for not remembering that in the 1980’s it was forbidden for UN officials to name and shame countries by name (with a few exceptions) and those that did usually paid a price for that (e.g. Theo van Boven in 1982 and the curtailing of terms for some High Commissioners). Now, in the span of one week the current High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has first named and shamed some politicians as dangerous demagogues (6 September 2016 in the Hague): Mr. Wilders. Mr. Trump, Mr. Orban, Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hofer, Mr. Fico, Madame Le Pen, and Mr. Farage. He followed this up in his opening statement at the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council on 13 September 2016 with a forceful attack on countries that refuses to cooperate with his Office or other UN procedures: foremost Syria but also Venezuela, Turkey, Ethiopia, Israel, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Mozambique, USA, Gambia, China, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Dominican Republic, Belarus, Eritrea, Iran, and Burundi. The non-cooperation by those in control of areas such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, and Nagorno-Karabakh was also singled out.

The part that underpins the ‘legitimacy’ of his interference is of special relevance: “Under international law, wrongful “intervention” – as prohibited in Article 2(7) of the UN Charter – is by nature coercive. And it should be obvious that my Office has no coercive power. No activity that we undertake can possibly be considered constitutive of a prohibited “intervention”. …We request access so we can better work to help bring your laws and practices in line with international agreements which you, the States drafted and ratified – and to assist you to comply with recommendations which you have publicly, and often fulsomely, accepted….Are human rights exclusively a national issue? Governments have the responsibility to uphold their human rights obligations and to respect the standards. But the human rights of all people, in all countries, also require – unquestionably ­– our collective attention. The Vienna Declaration, adopted unanimously 23 years ago, confirmed this..”

“Human rights violations will not disappear if a government blocks access to international observers and then invests in a public relations campaign to offset any unwanted publicity. On the contrary, efforts to duck or refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: what, precisely, are you hiding from us? I classify as refusals of access all unreasonable delays, elaborately ritualised and unreasonably prolonged negotiations, and responses to specific requests which seem to seek to fob us off with inadequate alternatives to real, fact-based assessment. Access delayed is access denied: two weeks is surely amply sufficient to secure a decision from all relevant officials. Claims that insecure conditions make it impossible to give my staff access are also less than acceptable. My staff work with great courage in some of the world’s most severely threatened communities, and will continue to do so when called upon – or at least, we could be the judge of that.

States may shut my Office out – but they will not shut us up; neither will they blind us. If access is refused, we will assume the worst, and yet do our utmost to nonetheless report as accurately as we can on serious allegations. Our remote monitoring is likely to involve witness testimony, credible third-party reports and use of satellite imagery, among other techniques. Certainly, remote monitoring is a poor substitute for in-person observation by expert analysts. It makes it more difficult to verify and confirm the competing allegations of any party – including the Government. I regret that imprecision, and encourage all States to assist us to correct it, by permitting my teams unhindered access to events on the ground when requested.

The two texts follow below in toto; summarizing them would not do justice to the elaborate and courageous words of this High Commissioner, who seems not to be concerned about securing a second term. Moreover, the one in the Hague stands out by its eloquence!

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