Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Human Rights Activists Oppose Bids by Venezuela, Pakistan to Join UN Human Rights Council; Election Could be Held in May

The governments of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Pakistan are slated to run unopposed for seats on the UN’s 47-nation Human Rights Council this year, according to a report by the independent monitoring group UN Watch, citing sources close to the United Nations.

“It’s an outrage,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, which announced the formation of an international coalition of parliamentarians and human rights groups to block both candidacies, “due to their poor records on human rights protection at home and on human rights promotion at the UN.”

Last year, UN Watch exposed Syria ’s candidacy to the council, and initiated a diplomatic campaign that pressured Damascus to drop its bid at the last minute. The non-governmental watchdog also led a successful campaign of 70 groups to remove Libya ’s Qaddafi regime from the council.

Gross Human Rights Violations

Neuer said that Venezuela and Pakistan were among the few states condemned for gross human rights violations at a recent summit of human rights dissidents, organized by UN Watch and 25 other human rights groups. The resolutions adopted on both countries are being circulated to UN diplomats in hopes they will be addressed at the council’s opening 2012 session next week.

“These are hypocritical candidacies. Chavez throws judges and critics in jail, bullies young student activists and uses his UN vote to shield the atrocities of others. Venezuela just voted against UN action on the horrific massacres perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” said Neuer.

“Pakistan persecutes religious minorities, including Sufis, Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, is on death row in Pakistan under Pakistan ’s medieval blasphemy law. Pakistan ’s judicial system punishes women who are victimized by rape instead of the rapists. That Pakistan might judge others on human rights is appalling.”

Lack of Competition for Seats

Regional groups frequently agree on closed slates of candidates, nominating the same number of countries as seats available.

“The lack of competition robs the election process of any meaning,” said Neuer, “and helps explain how China , Cuba and Saudi Arabia won their current seats.”

The election of new candidates could take place in May, as in previous years. According to information from sources close to the UN, obtained exclusively by UN Watch, the Latin American group is planning to name Venezuela , Argentina and Brazil to fill its allotted three seats.

For its five seats, Asia is planning to name Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and the UAE.

“We are urging the Latin American group to choose another candidate, and the Asian group to drop Pakistan , just as they finally dropped Syria last year.”

“Governments engaged in such egregious and ongoing human rights abuses against their own people—grossly violating their basic freedoms of speech, religion and assembly—ought to have no place in the world’s highest human rights chamber.”

“We call on all UN member states to state clearly that Venezuela and Pakistan are not qualified to be members of the Human Rights Council, and to strongly oppose their candidacies.”