Suspend Russia, other dictators from UN human rights council
European MPs: “Suspend Russia and other dictators from UN human rights council”
Today: Campaign launches to suspend Russia, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council as they take their new seats and as Russia increases threats to Ukraine
GENEVA, March 3 – Today, as Russia increases its military threats against Ukraine, it also took its seat as one of the newest members of the UN Human Rights Council. This glaring irony has caused a global outcry: In response, a coalition of MPs, non-governmental organizations and human rights activists have launched a global campaign -- spearheaded by Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch -- to suspend the memberships of Russia and its fellow human rights abusers China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, all of whom took their seats today as the UNHRC’s newest members.
* See below for quotes from MPs and activists on the campaign
During today’s opening session of the Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov thanked delegates for supporting Russia’s election to the world’s top human rights body, calling the vote “an acknowledgement of our country’s constructive approach to this sphere of multilateral cooperation.” He said that for Russia, “the protection of human and civil rights and freedoms is a basic priority.”
Saudi Arabia’s and Cuba’s Foreign Ministers are also scheduled to address the Council on March 4 and 5, respectively.
In response, European Parliament vice-president Edward McMillan-Scott, Canadian parliamentarian Irwin Cotler, Baroness Ludford of the European Parliament, and former MP of Hungary Matyas Eörsi have joined NGOs and rights activists from around the world to call for the UN to suspend the four abusers from the 47-nation body.
The appeal invokes Article 8 of the council’s charter, which allows the suspension of member states guilty of gross and systematic violations of human rights. Libya was successfully suspended in 2011 after asimilar campaign led by UN Watch.
“Hypocrisy on this scale undermines the credibility of the human rights council and of the United Nations as a whole,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, which is spearheading the campaign.
“The UN’s top human rights body is supposed to protect victims and hold the world’s worst perpetrators to account, not turn them into judges and prosecutors.”
WHAT THESE MEMBERS MEAN FOR THE COUNCIL
The presence of these human rights abusers not only cast a dark shadow on the future of the Human Rights Council but also recall its recent past. In 2006, the Council was created to replace its morally corrupt predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, which was criticized by former Secretary General Kofi Annan for its politicization and “declining credibility.”
Neuer said: “Despite the much-vaunted 2006 reform, which scrapped the discredited human rights commission and created a new and supposedly improved council, the presence of China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia means that we are back to square one. Instead of reform, we have regression.”
The negative impact could be severe. Neuer expects that Council will continue to turn a blind eye to egregious abuses by violators like China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, which have never been addressed in any UN resolution. He also fears that core principles of individual human rights will be subverted by concepts that increase power for governments.
REACTIONS OF PARLIAMENTARIANS
Parliamentary leaders who signed UN Watch’s #dictatorfreeHRC campaign to suspend China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudia Arabia from Council issued the following statements:
Member of Canadian Parliament, Liberal Party Critic for Rights & Freedoms, International Justice
Former Justice Minister & Attorney General
“The membership of China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia on the Human Rights Council constitutes a standing repudiation of the international struggle for human rights, and a betrayal of the victims. It makes a mockery of both the UNHRC and the purported commitment to human rights of the many countries who cast votes for the human rights reprobates in question.”
Former MP, Hungary, former President of ALDE, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
“With such members in the Human Rights Council, the UN continues to remain a lamed duck. We have no hope from the UN. As long as the Russian Federation, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and China sit in the Human Rights Council, we Ukrainians, we Cuban dissidents, we Chinese Christians and we Saudi Arabian women cannot seek for any support by the UN.”
Edward McMillan-Scott, MEP (Liberal
European Parliament Vice-President for Human Rights & Democracy
"Allowing China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia to sit as members of the UN Human Rights Council calls into question the Council's credibility. How can we criticise the appalling human rights abuses in these totalitarian states when we set them on a level-pegging with democracies? For this reason I support the Geneva Summit campaign for a #dictatorfreeHRC, and reinforce calls for the suspension of the membership of these four countries to the UNHRC.
REACTIONS OF DISSIDENTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Campaigner of the Magnitsky Act that sanctions corrupt Russian officials
“In Russia, you have a bunch of law enforcement people who are essentially organised criminals with unlimited power to ruin lives, take property and do whatever they like. Russia is essentially a criminal state now.”
Cuban political dissident
"Cuban regime should not be a member of the UN Human Rights Council because it systematically violates human rights of Cuban people on the streets and in prison. Cuban regime uses its seat at the Council to legitimize its totalitarian power and to continue repressing and killing Cuban citizens with impunity."
Chinese political dissident
“China’s interest in sitting on the Council has nothing to do with promoting human rights. Instead they are using this opportunity to prevent other democratic countries from questioning their human rights record.”