What has the UNHRC really achieved?
Posted on September 22nd, 2011

Written by Shenali Waduge

 Let us remind those of whom may not know or may like to forget that theUSvoted against the UN General Assembly resolution that created the council. The main reason for this was the fact that theUScannot tolerate any focus againstIsraelat any UN forum & vetoes every motion brought againstIsrael. The irony was that the worst human rights violating country even refused to run for a seat in the council for two consecutive years on the grounds that human rights abuses were not being punished. TheUSapparently has forgotten or refuses to accept its own human rights violations & what surprises most of us is why theUShas not been accused of any war crimes. The fact that international bodies that are mostly aligned to Western mindsets & values remain silent to the atrocities carried out by the West clearly showcases the failure of the UNHRC.

From the UN Charter to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, there have been & will continue to be resolutions, declarations, international standards prepared. When US blocks or vetoes attacks by Israel& violations by Israel& if the UNHRC does nothing would it be different for other nations to follow the same pattern? Though two wrongs does not make a right, how would the UNHRC escape the fact that apart from allegations against Israelthey are absolutely toothless to do anything about it because the USwill not allow anything to happen against Israel? There are no good human rights violators”¦.! Besides it looks as if only the West can determine who human rights violators are & their own violations automatically escape the UN radar.

This is why the UNHRC became a failure in the first year itself. Until & unless the UNHRC can remove its political bias & politically motivated direction, the UNHRC will continue to be a failure. Whilst only condemningIsraelthe UNHRC has no delay in finding smaller & less powerful nations completely guilty.

 One of the main allegations against the Commission on Human Rights was that it was under the control of the very countries that should have been scrutinized by the Commission. If the CHR was favorable to governments that composed the CHR what makes the UNHRC different? Members are elected & are expected to  “uphold the highest standards in the promotion & protection of human rights”.

 The UNHRC was established by the General Assembly resolution of 15 March 2006 & its members were to be elected by secret ballot by the majority of the General Assembly. 96 votes was thus needed for election. Members serve a 3 year term & shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after 2 consecutive terms. Which means that governments must step down for at least one year after serving 2 consecutive 3 year terms. Another criteria was that in electing members governments were required to take into account the contributions of the candidates towards promotion & protection of human rights. 

 Nevertheless, what needs to be pointed out is that despite changes to electing members, it is the same governments that end up standing for election! Besides how realistic was the universal periodic review mechanism in which countries with less impressive human rights records chooses not to apply for membership at all! Whether members or not, all countries should be periodically reviewed. Besides, even with a new election procedure there is not much change in the composition of the new Council! It’s a case of changing the pillow cover & not the pillow. The CHR & UNHRC are really no different.

 Moreover the new geographical distribution of seats, Western governments have been able to steer their initiatives which again gives rise to bias. Another question is whether the UNHRC has the legal ability to extend its action to international humanitarian law.  

 The Human Rights Council replaced the Commission on Human Rights established in 1946 by the Economic & Social Council. The Council was to function as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly.

 Therefore, the General Assembly has the power to complement or over-rule decisions by the UNHRC & the General Assembly has the final decision. This again means that the Council ultimately ends up following orders of the General Assembly. The UNHRC is in reality a toothless mechanism.

 A good example was the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People sent to the General Assembly which deferred it & even made changes to it. Does the UNHRC in the end really have the power & just by changing its formal status has the UNHRC protected human rights of ALL people? But why change the Commission on Human Rights when it was an exceptional body & received more attention than any other subsidiary organ of the UN? Its advantage was that there was a distance between the Commission & the General Assembly unlike the present UNHRC composition. Besides the truth is that NO institution that is perfect on paper cannot succeed if the international community does not make changes to defend human rights & moreover when powerful nations commit human rights atrocities & they escape the human rights radar what good is such a Council?

 Until such time nations change, changing the cloak is going to do no good.

Credibility of the UNHRC or even the UN cannot be “adopted” or “declared” “”…” credibility is something that is earned. Stakeholders need to live up to expectations. Besides, with no amendments to the Charter of the UN, the powers vested in the Economic & Social Council in the field of human rights remain the same. These powers could not be limited or abolished by any resolution by the General Assembly without amendments to the main Charter. In reality, the members of the Economic & Social Council could have argued that their duty defined by the Charter is still operational. It has all the right to make recommendations to promote respect for human rights, prepare draft conventions on human rights & arrange international conferences on human rights.

 How close is the Human Rights Council with the Security Council?

The UN Secretary General has suggested that the UNHRC should “have the authority to recommend policy measures to other organs of the UN”. However, the General Assembly had abstained from including such a provision. However, the Security Council “may invite members of the Secretariat or other persons” but eventually it is the information of the Secretary General & the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Security Council will rely on.

 Article 12 (1) of the UN Charter, declares that the General Assembly shall not make recommendations on disputes dealt by the Security Council unless requested to do so. Being a subsidiary organ of the UN, the UNHRC too cannot make recommendations unless requested to do so by the Security Council.

The current system of calling on special sessions has meant that between 1990 & 2006 the Commission on Human Rights held only 5 special session (2 onYugoslavia,Rwanda, East Timor & Israel)

  What needs to be pointed out is that human rights & economic freedoms cannot be protected by human rights treaty systems of the UN or the WTO. Similarly, the same benchmarks must apply to all. The powerful & rich cannot escape on the strength of their elitism.

 With NGOs given an increasing role in human rights work there is a lot of inconsistencies with its alignment with UN & associate bodies. Former Secretary General Kofi Annan in his report “In larger Freedom” outlined the importance of NGOs in the work of the UNHRC. However, NGOs have been given only consultative status & limited role in the universal periodic review. NGOs are afterall entities that are private & their function is based along those objectives & they will decide how they function.

 The UNHRC may be celebrating 5 years but it seriously need to ask itself what it has done to stop the atrocities that have taken place. What is Kosovo today, what misery Iraqi suffers from & why does the world not condemn the US, UK & NATO, what is happening in Afghanistan & will drone attacks be the future of tomorrows wars”¦are these not violations on human rights but whose rights are being protected”¦what about the victims..do they not matter”¦UNHRC should rightly start asking these questions amongst their core team before they start pointing fingers”¦. unless one’s own house is in order”¦how can UNHRC order others.

Written by Shenali Waduge

2 Responses to “What has the UNHRC really achieved?”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “Therefore, the General Assembly has the power to complement or over-rule decisions by the UNHRC & the General Assembly has the final decision.”

    If we can retain UN general assembly majority support (which is easy) no amount of UNHRC Tamil Navi Pillai jokers can touch us.

    LOSERS are losing again Nanthikadal style.

  2. LankaLover Says:

    I admire your enlightenment on the issues that we are facing today with the UN. However, a key piece of the puzzle is missing. That’s about who moved/provided motivation for someone usually considered as ineffective and lethargic Ban-Ki-Moon to be this bold, and subvert the whole UN Charter and processes to bully Sri Lanka. Does ‘Clinton’ ring any bells? Her unsuccessful campaign for US presidency put her in a $30M black hole, as well as brought new friends. One of the new friends are the LTTE lobby in the USA, who not only poured money into her campaign, but promised her US Tamil votes (they did the same thing for Obama too). These new friends with the backing of the disgraced billionnair Raj Rajaratnam’s name, Global Tamil Forum, and various LTTE charity front endorsements made Clinton’s eye glitter. She resorted to making speeches about ‘Good Terrorists AKA LTTE, and bad terrorists’, and moved even the IMF to delay the IMF funding to Sri Lanka (she was unsuccessful later, even though it was delayed). Before that she tried to make a US intervention to get LTTE leaders rescued, and some USA Security personnel from the Pacific Command visited Sri Lanka just before the LTTE leader was killed to see whether he could be rescued. When SL did not listened to her and eliminated the LTTE Leadership, it became nasty for Sri Lanka. Then, one after the other, Sri Lanka was subject to intimidation and US State Department ciritism.. Blake’s visits and increased wrath by the US State Department is clearly to satisfy his boss, who is been remote controlled by the LTTE Lobby of the USA, and the burden of $30M personal debt (there is no indication as to how much contribution has been made to eliviate this debt by Tamil Diaspora). This is a personal vandetta carried out using US State Department resources and the power of influence. Clinton’s rush visit to ‘no-one’ knew Jayalalitha in India is no co-incident. They all part of the mis-using US State department resources for a personal greed, and to satify her newly found friends. Clinton is Moon’s energy source to move his usually stale bum.

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