Obama proudly joins Venezuela, Khazakstan, Pakistan and the UAEVenezuela, Khazakstan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
In Monday’s election, 18 states gained seats, even though activists had denounced each potential member’s human rights record days earlier. “We need better ingredients in the soup,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said during an event on Friday at the United Nations in New York where questions were raised about several candidates for the panel.
On Friday, UN Watch and the Human Rights Foundation had invited activists from Venezuela, Pakistan and Kazakhstan to speak about human rights violations. The three countries all gained council membership on Monday, even though the two groups judged them “not qualified” to serve, based on an examination (PDF) of their domestic rights protections and their voting record at the United Nations.
“It would be immoral to let Venezuela join if it doesn’t improve its behavior,” said the Venezuelan businessman Eligio Cedeño, who supported opposition politicians before being arrested and charged with circumventing currency controls.
As my colleague Simon Romero reported in 2010, a judge, María Lourdes Afiuni, freed Mr. Cedeño after a U.N. legal panel said his pretrial detention exceeded the limits set by Venezuelan law. The ruling by Judge Afiuni angered President Hugo Chávez, who, while contending on national television that she would have been put before a firing squad in earlier times, sent his secret police to arrest her. She was sentenced to 30 years and is currently under house arrest. Mr. Cedeño fled to the United States.
UN Watch and the Human Rights Foundation also criticized Pakistan for failing “to meet the minimal standards of a free democracy.” A major point of international scrutiny and condemnation has been Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Sajid Christopher, a Christian activist, denounced the law as an instrument of intimidation against religious minorities. “The law requires neither proof of intent nor evidence to be presented after allegations are made, and includes no penalties for false allegations,” said Mr. Christopher, the founder of a group called Human Friends International.
Igor Vinyavsky, a newspaper editor from Kazakhstan, denounced harassment and persecution against independent media outlets. In its latest press freedom index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Kazakhstan 154th out of 179 countries. Mr. Vinyavsky was detained in January and held for two months, accused of distributing leaflets calling for an insurrection, a charge he has denied. He was arrested after a raid on his Almaty-based newspaper, Vzglyad, in which the security forces confiscated all reporting equipment, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.
“To elect Kazakhstan would be a baffling and shameful act,” Mr. Vinyavsky said through a translator on Friday.Anne Bayefsky adds:
The Obama administration was reelected today for a second three-year term to the U.N.’s top human-rights body, the Human Rights Council, with substantially fewer votes than human-rights heavyweights United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela, and Pakistan. Moreover, fewer than half of Council members now poised to begin applying democratic standards to the rest of the world, are themselves “fully free,” according to Freedom House rankings.
Also coming out a big winner today was the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which retained the balance of power on the Council. Council membership is divided among five regional groups, and the African and Asian regional groups comprise the majority of members. OIC states will continue to make up the majority on each of the African and Asian regional groups.
None of that fazed Obama U.N. ambassador Susan Rice. She told reporters after the vote that the outcome validated the administration’s decision to join the Council. Actually, the reverse is true. U.S. membership validates the Council as a serious human rights body — despite the fact that it is the U.N. entity chiefly responsible for the demonization of the state of Israel as allegedly the world’s worst human-rights violator. Thirty-eight percent of all the human rights criticism directed at specific countries by the Council in its six-year history has been directed at Israel alone. None has been directed at countries such as Saudi Arabia and China, to name but a few.
Rice is, of course, no stranger to diplomatic deceit, a trait shared by her Council colleagues. With a straight face Pakistani ambassador Masood Khan told the press after his country’s election today, “All forces and all segments of civil society in Pakistan are committed to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.” That would be news to say, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by fellow Pakistanis for advocating girls’ education.Read the whole thing.
Now that they're on the 'human rights council' together, maybe Hugo Chavez can give Barack Hussein Obama some tips on becoming President for life.
What could go wrong?