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Cablegate: Little Progress and Much Confusion and Frustration

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1433
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2006-10-19 13:15:00 06GENEVA2654 US Mission Geneva CONFIDENTIAL 06USMISSIONGENEVA2654 VZCZCXRO4453\
PP RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV\
DE RUEHGV #2654/01 2921315\
ZNY CCCCC ZZH\
P 191315Z OCT 06\
FM USMISSION GENEVA\
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1433\
INFO RUEHZJ/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY\
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE PRIORITY\
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0840\
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0462\
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 3846\
RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 0494\
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1548\
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 5885\
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0482\
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0525\
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0484\
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0394\
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 5267\
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0619\
RUEHLS/AMEMBASSY LUSAKA 0304\
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 0290\
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 1734\
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 1950\
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 0280\
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0583\
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 4138\
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN\
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 2695\
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 2368 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 GENEVA 002654 \
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SIPDIS \
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SIPDIS \
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IO FOR DAS M. LAGON, DRL FOR DAS E. BARKS-RUGGLES \
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2016 \
TAGS: PHUM UNHRC
SUBJECT: LITTLE PROGRESS AND MUCH CONFUSION AND FRUSTRATION \
LEAD TO ADJOURNMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL'S SECOND SESSION \
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GENEVA 00002654 001.2 OF 004 \
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Classified By: PolCouns Velia M. De Pirro for reasons 12958: 1.4 (b)(d) \
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Summary \
-------- \
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1. (C) The Human Rights Council's second session was \
adjourned without achieving much after three weeks. It is to \
resume November 27-28, when it will deal with 44 resolutions \
tabled by members when it became apparent that little of \
substance would be achieved. The Council's failure was due \
in part to growing pains of a new body, but most of the blame \
was laid by members on unpredictable, often obscure, and \
confusing management by HRC President Luis Alfonso de Alba. \
His preference for small group meetings and closed sessions \
of the Council, from which observer States and NGOs were \
excluded, drew criticism from non-members and regional \
groups. De Alba's penchant for setting aside modalities and \
rules without explanation resulted in confusion and \
frustration among delegations. The level of discontent was \
clearly evident on the last day of the session when four \
GRULAC delegations delivered statements condemning the HRC's \
failure to deal with serious situations and criticizing the \
lack of predictability and transparency in the Council. The \
only success was the increased participation by NGOs in the \
inter-active dialogue with Special Procedures despite efforts \
by Cuba, China and Russia to block their involvement. U.S. \
engagement was welcomed by most delegations seeking to build \
a Council better able to address serious situations. \
Planning for the third session is underway among Geneva \
delegations. Success in addressing issues of concern to the \
United States and its partners will depend on early and \
concerted action in capitals. End Summary. \
\
Little Progress \
--------------- \
\
2. (SBU) Expectations for the second regular session of the \
Human Rights Council were mixed and not particularly high. \
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) expected to \
continue its anti-Israel focus and attention on the issue of \
religious intolerance. The Western (WHRG) and the Latin \
American (GRULAC) groups hoped to address at least one urgent \
situation -- Sudan/Darfur. The bulk of the session was to be \
devoted to the reports of the Special Procedures mandate \
holders. This segment was seen by many delegations, \
especially Norway, India, Canada and the Latin American \
members, as successful. This was in large part because NGOs, \
supported by the WHRG and GRULAC, gained ground in being \
allowed to participate in the inter-active dialogue with the \
Special Procedures despite repeated efforts by Cuba, China, \
Russia and Belarus to disallow any participation by civil \
society. The rapporteurs' reports held few surprises since \
their written reports had been publicly available for many \
months. In addition, the rapporteurs, their working methods, \
and biases were well known to States. Consequently, \
interventions by the concerned States were predictable, \
focused on the shortcomings of the reports or the working \
methods of the rapporteurs. The only exceptions were \
virulent personal attacks by the Cuban and Belarussian \
delegations on the rapporteurs dealing with their countries, \
and the report on the Israel-Lebanon war which drew fire from \
all sides. \
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GENEVA 00002654 002.2 OF 004 \
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Much Frustration with the President and the Process \
--------------------------------------------- ------ \
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3. (SBU) While the inter-active dialogue was seen as \
generally successful, HRC President Luis Alfonso de Alba's \
management of the Council drew criticism. His unpredictable \
wavering between strictly applying or completely setting \
aside agreed modalities for the meeting caused confusion and \
grumbling from delegations. Discussions with the Council \
Secretariat revealed equal uncertainty among staff charged \
\
SIPDIS \
with supporting the Council. Dissatisfaction with de Alba \
increased over the course of the session as he insisted on a \
"substantive" consensus omnibus resolution on the reports and \
recommendations of the Special Procedures, but failed to \
provide adequate guidance or information on how he planned to \
arrive at a text. Most delegations tried to work with de \
Alba to avoid the Commission's practice of over 100 \
individual resolutions on the reports. It was, however, \
apparent from the start that consensus on the recommendations \
was impossible given States' objections to those that applied \
to them. Nonetheless, De Alba insisted on an omnibus \
resolution and even broadened it to include new initiatives. \
In pursuit of agreement to his plan, de Alba held small group \
meetings and closed sessions of the Council, excluding \
observer States and NGOs. His preference for working behind \
closed doors and the resulting lack of transparency quickly \
drew the ire of delegations, including the United States. In \
meetings with Ambassador Tichenor, De Alba rationalized his \
actions by saying that he needed flexibility to operate. \
Distrust increased, however, as regional groups felt excluded \
from the process and de Alba began to consult with the EU \
presidency, the NAM (presently chaired by Cuba) and the OIC. \
Unhappiness with the HRC President and growing doubt that the \
Council would yield concrete results, led delegations to \
table 44 resolutions by the last week of the Council. A \
U.S.-led draft resolution on democracy was ruled to be too \
late to be accepted in the unpredictable swings of de Alba's \
gavel. \
\
Consensus or Nothing \
-------------------- \
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4. (SBU) De Alba called for a consensus resolution covering \
new initiatives, but excluding those that in his view were \
covered by an almost agreed "generic" text on the Special \
Procedures reports. Poorly managed negotiations, lack of \
transparency and general confusion on how de Alba would deal \
with 44 resolutions basically led to an impasse. In an \
apparent effort to have something concrete to point to, de \
Alba proposed a consensus presidential statement on 4-5 of \
the key issues and transferal of other resolutions to the \
November session of the Council. The first draft circulated \
by de Alba was not so much a consensus text as a compilation \
of issues of interest to certain delegations or groups. \
Three items drew on OIC language dealing with religious \
intolerance (without mention of religious freedom), Israeli \
settlements and construction of the wall, and the situation \
in Lebanon. The Sudan/Darfur language was drawn from the EU \
resolution, and the paragraph on right to development was \
taken from Cuba's resolution on behalf of the NAM. Aware \
that the text would not gain consensus, de Alba chaired an \
abbreviated morning session during which a generic text on \
the inter-active dialogue was adopted. He also announced that \
follow up to previous Council resolutions would be part of \
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GENEVA 00002654 003.2 OF 004 \
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the agenda of the third session. Comment: The latter was a \
sop to the OIC, which had threatened to call a vote against \
transferring the tabled resolutions to the November session \
unless its resolutions focused on Israel were addressed. End \
comment. In a meeting with de Alba, Ambassador Tichenor and \
IO DAS Mark Lagon raised U.S. opposition to the lack of \
balance in the statement's treatment of Middle East issues \
and religious intolerance. They also called on de Alba to \
exercise greater transparency and predictability in his \
consultations and management of the Council. \
\
5. (SBU) The second draft included only changes requested by \
the OIC to toughen sections of concern to its members. It \
also included a new item on humanitarian law at the request \
of the Swiss delegation, which had already indicated its \
intention to support the text. Reaction in the Western Group \
to both texts was mixed and showed once again the group's \
inability to act in concert. Non-members United States, \
Australia, Canada, Norway and New Zealand opposed the texts \
and warned against making consensus the goal of the Council \
rather than protecting and promoting human rights. Canada, a \
member of the Council, also made clear its opposition to the \
text. The Canadian delegation, obviously uncomfortable, was \
under instructions from Ottawa to break consensus on its own \
if necessary. The EU was engaged in an internal struggle \
between opposition to the text and fearing censure if it or \
the Western Group were blamed for the Council's failure. In \
the end, "nothing is better than a bad text" became the motto \
for all groups. In the closing session the President \
announced that consensus had failed and that all tabled \
resolutions would be taken up at the resumption of the second \
session of the Council November 27-28, and that the third \
session would begin two days late on November 29. \
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GRULAC Challenges President \
--------------------------- \
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6. (SBU) In a surprising move that drew comment from all \
delegations, at the conclusion of the session the delegations \
of Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina made statements \
condemning the Council's failure to address the crisis \
situation in Sudan/Darfur and criticizing the lack of \
transparency and predictability in the Council's operations \
-- a direct hit at de Alba's management of the Council. \
While Peru's statement could reflect the Peruvian PermRep \
Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros' resentment at having had to step \
aside in June so de Alba could take the presidency, \
interventions by usually more reserved GRULAC members \
highlighted the level of discontent in the Council with de \
Alba's presidency. Similar statements noting the Council's \
failure to deal with serious human rights situations were \
made by Ambassador Tichenor and India. The Finnish \
Presidency had a statement and was on the list of speakers, \
but opted not to deliver a statement. A Finnish delegate \
claimed that they changed their minds not to encourage the \
OIC to speak. Since no one from the OIC was on the speakers' \
list and the session was drawing to a close, the Finnish \
excuse rings hollow. \
\
Comment: U.S. Role \
-------------------- \
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7. (C) The United States delegation, headed by Ambassador \
Tichenor and supported by Washington-based staff, including \
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GENEVA 00002654 004.2 OF 004 \
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IO DAS Mark Lagon, actively engaged during the three-week \
session. In an effort to demonstrate U.S. support for \
country- specific mandates as well as the thematic mandates \
focused on civil and political rights, USdel delivered \
statements and participated in the interactive dialogue with \
rapporteurs. (Statements are accessible on Mission Geneva's \
website.) The United States' engagement in the session was \
welcomed by most delegations as a sign that the USG was \
serious in trying to help shape the Council into a more \
effective body than the Commission. U.S. leadership in the \
Western Group was particularly welcomed by non-EU partners \
frustrated by the EU's inability to arrive a strong unified \
positions and its penchant for delivering often weak general \
statements. Media interest was tamer during this session in \
part because this session did not produce much in the way of \
drama or reportable news, but also because reporters and \
their editors are starting to see the Council as little \
better than the Commission. As the AP bureau chief put it, \
"The Council is making itself marginal." That being said, \
U.S. statements received good coverage in the wires. USG \
views were thereby well-disseminated. \
\
8. (C) Planning for the third session of the Council is \
underway within regional and other groups. Ambassador \
Tichenor hosted Community of Democracy Convening Group \
ambassadors October 13 (septel) and hosted select African \
Group ambassadors October 17. JUSCANZ has commenced a series \
of weekly meetings to assure that it is not hampered in \
achieving shared goals by the EU's cumbersome coordination \
process. These preparations only address, however, issues \
from the perspective of Geneva-based delegations -- 44 \
pending resolutions, the need for more predictable and \
transparent working methods for the Council, and the \
importance of reaching across regional lines to assure that \
the Council can respond to concerns beyond those of the OIC. \
Progress on the Council's foundations and working methods as \
well as concrete actions that address emerging or serious \
human rights situations will require action in capitals \
either separately or jointly with like-minded partners. \
While this message has focused on the difficulties resulting \
from HRC President de Alba's imprecise and often ambiguous \
management of the Council, it is important to keep in mind \
that determined and coordinated action by the United States \
and its partners can positively influence the work of the \
Council. It requires, however, early planning on focused \
objectives. \
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TICHENOR \

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