Britain should pull out of the biased body, which has routinely failed to promote human rights
In questions to the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons Chamber yesterday (Tuesday 26th June 2018), I told Boris Johnson: “The President of the United States has called out the UN Human Rights Council for what they are: a bunch of corrupt, nasty hypocrites. He has withdrawn the US from that Council – why don’t we save $4 million a year by doing just the same?”
a bunch of corrupt, nasty hypocrites
The Foreign Secretary replied “We believe in human rights and we believe that global Britain should stick up for human rights and, yes, I think the United States has a point when they dispute the validity of Article 7 in the Human Rights Council’s proceedings”, but Boris Johnson didn’t go so far as to say the UK would withdraw too. I think he should reconsider.
Both the United States and the UK are two of the world’s foremost promoters of democracy and human rights.
So it may, therefore, seem a baffling and inconsistent move for the US to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council. But it’s because that Council not merely fails to promote human rights and indirectly aids the worst abusers allowing them to cover up their crimes, that the US has taken the right decision. We should now follow our American friends out the door too.
Currently, 47 member states serve on the Council, and all are elected onto it by the UN General Assembly.
The Council’s official website states that the General Assembly “takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights”, but the truth is that this is rarely the case.
Among its current members, the Council includes some of the most oppressive and illiberal countries in the world, including: China, Cuba, DR Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
In the past, other serial offenders such as Egypt, Libya, Russia, Uganda and Vietnam have also been represented.
This farce would at least be partially admissible if the Council made a sincere effort to promote human rights and took an objective stance on calling out gross rights violations, wherever they occur.
But they do not. According to the NGO UN Watch, between 2006 and 2016 the Human Rights Council issued 68 specific condemnations of Israel, far more than any other country. Syria, whose government routinely massacres its own civilians, followed in second with 20 condemnations, while Burma and North Korea followed with 11 and 9 respectively.
Israel is routinely singled out by the Council to a disproportionate extent, while countries which commit far worse acts often receive no criticism whatsoever
A number of states didn’t receive a single condemnation, despite regular and extreme human rights violations. These included: China, Russia, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The issue here is not so much the criticism of Israel per se. The problem is that Israel is routinely singled out by the Council to a disproportionate extent, while countries which commit far worse acts often receive no criticism whatsoever.
How can Israel, a modern democracy with an independent press, judiciary and Parliament – a country where LGBT pride parades are accepted and commonplace – be condemned several dozen times while Iran, a place where homosexuals are relentlessly persecuted up to and including execution, receive just 6 condemnations?
How can Eritrea, a country routinely ranked as one of the single most repressive nations on the planet, be condemned less than a tenth as frequently than Israel, the only full democracy in the Middle East?
Despite Israelis enjoying freedoms and rights in their own country which the majority of the world’s governments have yet to grant, the so-called Human Rights Council have somehow come to the conclusion that it is Israel which is by far the world’s worst human rights violator.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, was totally right when she condemned the council for its “unending hostility” towards Israel. And President Trump didn’t mince his words. He went further, referring to the Council as a “cesspool of political bias”. For once, words were backed up with action.
As recently as March, the UK government attacked the Council for its biases too. With this in mind, why are we still wasting our time?
It is already clear that those on the Council who wish to advance the cause of Human Rights everywhere are outnumbered by those who seek to whitewash violations when it doesn’t suit their political agenda. Under these circumstances, reform is impossible.
Financially too, it makes little sense for the UK to continue contributing money to this sham.
For as long as we remain a member of this shameful body, we will simply be reinforcing the message that political biases should take precedence over the promotion of human rights, and throwing away millions of taxpayer pounds for good measure.
The UN Human Rights Council was founded with the specific, noble aim of advancing freedom and justice. Until it begins to do this, we should follow the lead of the US and play no further part in this charade.