Cablegate: Oic Power Play Dominates Human Rights Council


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2008-04-04 15:26:00 08GENEVA256 US Mission Geneva CONFIDENTIAL 07USMISSIONGENEVA2626 VZCZCXYZ0011\
DE RUEHGV #0256/01 0951526\
P 041526Z APR 08\
C O N F I D E N T I A L GENEVA 000256 \
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/01/2018 \
REF: 07 GENEVA 2626 \
Classified By: Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor. Reasons: 1.4 (b/d). \
1. (C) SUMMARY: The seventh session of the Human Rights \
Council, which ran March 3-28 with an April 1 extension, \
highlighted the power of the Organization of the Islamic \
Conference (OIC) in that still evolving body. The session's \
defining moment came in the closing minutes of its last \
scheduled day of work, when the OIC and its allies rammed \
through amendments that subverted the Freedom of Expression \
resolution. This culminated relentless OIC efforts \
throughout the session to press its interests, which \
generally undermine the promotion and protection of human \
rights. The results included, inter alia, the passage of a \
resolution on defamation of religions, and the Council's \
by-now customarily unbalanced approach to Israel. On the \
positive side, the Council preserved some important country \
mandates, and provided the forum for a discussion of China's \
behavior in Tibet. The balance sheet, however, continued to \
favor the OIC and its allies. As several like-minded \
ambassadors agreed in an April 2 meeting with Ambassador \
Tichenor, the seventh session raises deep concerns about the \
Council's future direction and strongly argues for more \
active and more effective coordination among like-minded \
states. END SUMMARY. \
-------------- \
2. (SBU) OIC efforts to amend -- and in effect subvert -- the \
Freedom of Expression resolution had been a dominant subtext \
throughout the Council's seventh regular session. With \
support from the U.S., the EU and others, Canada, as chief \
sponsor, had sought to fend off an OIC amendment that would \
instruct the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to \
report on "instances in which the abuse of the right of \
freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or \
religious discrimination." The OIC, taking advantage of its \
internal discipline, had held firm throughout. China, \
apparently angered by criticism during the Council's March 25 \
meeting of its behavior in Tibet, floated its own killer \
amendments two days before the vote. Canada rejected these \
as having been raised too late in the game. \
3. (U) The decisive action on the freedom of expression \
resolution and its amendments came on the session's last day. \
We had joined Canada and others in efforts to sway moderate \
OIC members, but these had fallen short. Meanwhile, Canada \
had sought to find compromise language that would avoid the \
OIC amendment. When those efforts failed, and with the \
session having been extended beyond its scheduled 6pm closing \
time, the OIC called for a vote on its amendment, which \
passed (27-17-3). The U.S., Canada, the EU and others \
dropped their co-sponsorship. With the momentum clearly \
favoring the OIC and its allies, Cuba then pulled an \
unexpected move, proposing an oral amendment underscoring \
"the importance for all forms of media to report and to \
deliver information in a fair and impartial manner." That \
amendment passed (29-15-3). Canada and the EU failed in last \
minute procedural efforts to head off the fully amended \
resolution, which then passed (32-0-15). \
4. (C) The Ambassador's April 2 meeting with like-minded \
ambassadors to take stock of the session provided additional \
insights into the dynamics behind the last-minute \
maneuvering. Canada's ambassador expressed frustration at \
the African Group's solidarity with the OIC. Madagascar and \
Angola, for instance, had expressed discomfort with the \
amendment in conversations with the Canadians but had \
eventually been pressured into voting for it. The OIC had \
also exerted immense pressure on others during the end game, \
he reported; Bosnia and Herzegovina, for instance, had been \
pressed hard, although it had ended up voting against the \
amendment. Both the Canadian and Danish ambassadors \
expressed particular resentment toward China: though the \
Chinese had ostensibly kept their promise, made on the \
session's last day, not to put forth an oral amendment, they \
had clearly struck a deal for Cuba to do so. \
5. (U) In an April 1 extension of the seventh session to \
allow for closing statements, several OIC members defended \
the newly amended resolution. Pakistan argued that the OIC \
amendment had done nothing beyond providing an "add-on" that \
made the resolution more "comprehensive and holistic," in \
order to protect the stability of multicultural societies. \
Sri Lanka echoed that theme and expressed hope that the \
decisions on the freedom of expression mandate would not \
leave the Council as a "house divided." The U.S. was among \
several delegations that sharply criticized the amendments. \
6. (U) The OIC had scored an earlier victory with adoption of \
a resolution on defamation of religions (21-10-14). It also \
succeeded in rescheduling the Item 7 discussion of the \
Occupied Palestinian Territories to early in the Council \
session in order more quickly to condemn Israel's response to \
rocket attacks from Gaza. In addition to the resolution \
passed on that occasion, the Council also passed three other \
anti-Israel resolutions. One of these, on Israeli \
settlements, passed 46-1-0, with only Canada voting against \
it. \
--------------------------------------------- --------- \
7. (U) In recent months, the OIC and its allies had continued \
their criticism of country mandates, arguing that they had \
become unnecessary particularly given the imminent start of \
the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. The seventh session \
saw two important casualties: the mandate of the Democratic \
Republic of the Congo was eliminated, to be replaced with a \
far weaker arrangement for monitoring the situation on the \
ground in the DRC, and the Council passed a weak resolution \
on Sudan. Nonetheless, two important country mandates, on \
Burma and the DPRK, were adopted (the former by consensus and \
the latter by a vote of 27-7-18). \
8. (SBU) At the session, new appointments were made to fill a \
number of special procedures mandates. This followed a \
difficult and highly politicized process that drew complaints \
from many delegations about lack of transparency. In the \
end, two AmCits were selected, both of whose records suggest \
they will not address their mandate responsibilities \
even-handedly; none of the USG nominees for mandates was \
selected. In the April 1 session, Egypt, Russia, Algeria and \
others sought to undercut the principle under which mandate \
holders are extended, with little review, for a second \
three-year term if they perform well in their first term; the \
EU and others resisted this effort, seeing it as a ploy to \
impose pressure on mandate holders who prove overly \
independent. \
9. (SBU) Meanwhile, a resolution criticizing the Office of \
the High Commissioner for Human Rights for failing to ensure \
balance in its hiring of staff was adopted 34-10-3, playing \
into the hands of those seeking to whittle away at the \
independence of the OHCHR. By most accounts, we are likely \
to see more such resolutions criticizing the OHCHR in future \
sessions. High Commissioner Louise Arbour also came under \
attack at various points throughout the session, including in \
the aftermath of the report she presented to the Council, \
during which she also announced that she would step down from \
that post at the end of her term in June. \
------------------- \
10. (C) On the positive side, the Council session proved an \
opportunity to shed light on China's reaction to protests in \
Tibet. Slovenia (on behalf of the EU), Switzerland and \
Australia joined the U.S. in raising concerns about the \
issue, as did a number of NGOs, generally in harsher terms. \
China's delegation, supported by a few others, repeatedly \
raised procedural objections on the grounds that the \
discussion was taking place under Item 8 (Vienna \
Declaration), which should not address country situations. \
In response to the objections, Council President Costea took \
a middle ground, urging speakers to address the Vienna \
Declaration and its implementation but allowing all but one \
NGO speaker to speak about Tibet. Switzerland is among \
several countries planning to write Costea to underscore its \
view that country situations may be addressed under Item 8. \
In the view of many, China's repeated objections only played \
into the hands of those criticizing it for seeking to squash \
dialogue on the subject. \
-------------------------------------------- \
11. (C) As noted reftel, the Council's last session, in \
December, had been plagued by a reluctance of the Portuguese \
EU presidency to coordinate with potential allies, including \
the U.S. Prior to the seventh session, Ambassador Tichenor, \
supported by other ambassadors, had highlighted to the \
incoming Slovenian presidency in the Council the importance \
of better coordination, and the Slovenians appeared genuinely \
committed to improving matters. In practice, the EU's record \
in the seventh session proved mixed. In a number of cases, \
including on coordination with the Latin American regional \
group (GRULAC) on a resolution on the rights of the child, \
the EU continued its weak coordination with other interested \
delegations, and on a number of resolutions, it often failed \
to keep the U.S. and other allied delegations properly \
informed. In other instances, however, it communicated and \
coordinated well, both through direct contact between \
Slovenian delegates and their counterparts and through EU \
burden-sharing of those responsibilities. In perhaps the \
best example of coordination, the EU brought the U.S. and \
Australian delegations into its last-minute negotiations with \
ASEAN on the Burma resolution, and later acknowledged that \
this had strengthened its position. \
------- \
12. (C) Burma was among a number of issues where U.S. \
engagement proved important. Another was Mexico's resolution \
on counter-terrorism: while Mexico sought to be \
accommodating, it did so at least in part because the U.S. \
made clear its desire to be actively involved in hammering \
out acceptable language. Similarly, U.S. engagement both in \
the run-up to the session and during the session itself \
shaped the Maldives' resolution on climate change. In these \
cases and others, the primary sponsors' willingness to \
cooperate with the U.S. proved fundamental -- and \
encouraging. \
13. (C) Despite a few bright spots, however, the seventh \
session has been deeply troubling. The OIC appears to have \
further strengthened its internal discipline, and the \
statements of its leading delegations, notably Pakistan and \
Egypt, became more aggressive. We also have been \
particularly struck by the increasing aggressiveness of the \
Sri Lankan PermRep. The OIC and its allies also appear to \
have coordinated well in their lobbying on the floor of the \
Council. Meanwhile, the EU and its allies are not only \
outnumbered but have at times been reluctant to challenge the \
OIC directly. Several ambassadors expressed deep concern in \
our April 2 stock-taking session, stressing that U.S. \
membership in the Council could be pivotal and arguing that a \
new long-term strategic approach might be needed; Slovenia's \
ambassador said his delegation was drafting a concept paper, \
initially for EU consideration. From our perspective, it \
will be difficult to reverse the dynamic of an ascendant OIC \
in the Council, making cooperation among states that share \
our human rights goals all the more essential. \

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