Farewell to Human Rights – Adieux aux Droits de l’homme
Posted on June 25th, 2009

Bandula Kothalawala London N7

On 23 June 2009, President Sarkozy of France, in his latest cabinet reshuffle, dumped his Secretary of State for Human Rights.

This would have gone unnoticed among the numerous other changes made to various portfolios had it not been for the fact that France has long made human rights her trademark. She has always made a song and a dance about human rights, often behaved on the international scene as if she held a copyright on them and arrogated to herself a divine right to pontificate on them to all lesser mortals, especially, to those in developing countries.

Ms Rama Yade, since her appointment in 2007, had shown independence, integrity and candour in the discharge of her ministerial duties and functions. She had also made many enemies. Her cardinal sin was that she failed to differentiate between violators of human rights. In other words, she had been critical of Russia, China, Libya etc and espoused unpopular causes as well. In sum, she had not yet mastered the art and science of adapting her language for the circumstances and adopting the “right” attitude to suit the latitude of a particular nation and make anodyne remarks or platitudes which would serve the commercial interests of her country.

Ms Yade had become a thorn in the side of the saintly Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister, who accompanied Mr David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary, on his day-trip to Colombo to defend the human rights of the LTTE leadership holed up in their bunkers in the No-Fire Zone. Mon Kouchner had already warned that there was a “permanent contradiction between human rights and foreign policy of a State”. Naturally, such pronouncements apply to France and her allies. Others are required to observe human rights to the letter unless, of course, they can prove their worth as trading partners or have the potential to do so. Ms Yade, in her short-lived carrier as Secretary of State for Human Rights, received raps on her knuckles on a regular basis from the President, as she could not keep her mouth shut on human rights violations of some of France’s trading partners. Her candid views were seen to be getting in the way of contracts worth billions of Euros (or roubles or Renminbis). France was one of the countries which pilloried Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in May 2009 on alleged violations of human rights in her war against a blood-thirty terror outfit.

Ms Yade has now been relegated to the Ministry of Sports where she is expected to, at last, learn the rules of the game. She is well advised not to venture into diplomatically sensitive sports like ping-pong or basket ball. Fortunately for Ms Yade who, in her early thirties, has a lot of time ahead of her to practise less risky sports and avoid international diplomacy. Maybe, she should try her hand at pĮՠթtanque.

One Response to “Farewell to Human Rights – Adieux aux Droits de l’homme”

  1. cassandra Says:

    There should be no “permanent contradiction between human rights and foreign policy of a state” as M.Kouchner is quoted as saying if states conducted their foreign affairs with some morality (which they so loudly proclaim) and consistency. The fact, alas, is they don’t and never have. Indeed, it is instructive to note that while the French were great advocates of liberty, equality and fraternity, at home, they clearly did not see fit to apply these same political virtues in their colonies. They ruled their colonies just as harshly as the others. Even Britain, with her great liberal traditions and record of defending human rights had no ‘difficulty’ in running the largest colonial enterprise in history despite that involving large scale subjugation of whole nations and the deprivation of their human rights. These nations should know better than to play the ‘human rights’ card selectively. As the old saying goes, ‘people living in glass houses should not throw stones’.

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