Cablegate: Uk Welcomes Us Unhrc Priorities
DE RUEHLO #2120/01 2541354
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 111354Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3467
INFO RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1259
C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 002120
FOR IO/RHS COLLEEN NEVILLE AND AMY OSTERMEIER AND DRL/MLGA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/09/2019
TAGS: PHUM PREL UN UNHRC UK
SUBJECT: UK WELCOMES US UNHRC PRIORITIES
REF: STATE 93374 Classified By: Political Counselor Robin Quinville for reasons 1.4(b) a nd (d).
1. (C/NF) Summary: HMG welcomes U.S. participation in the UN Human Rights Council and is in broad agreement with its priorities. It sees difficulties in convincing some EU states to go along with the freedom of expression resolution; if amendments are not possible, political pressure will be needed in order to convince skeptical European countries. The UK supports the idea behind the Colombian resolution on legal discrimination against women, but is concerned about bureaucratic inefficiency in gender issues in the UN. The UK agrees with the U.S. that we should not support the Russian resolution on "traditional values" but emphasizes the need to build bridges with Russia, perhaps by supporting its other resolution on UNHCR Review. The UK also agrees with the U.S. on supporting human rights mandates in Cambodia, Somalia, and Burundi, and adds Liberia to the list of country-specific missions that need support. The UK is gratified to see that Qatar has come out as a candidate for UNHCR membership, which would pose a challenge to Iran, though it harbors some reservations about Qatar's sincerity. The Goldstone Report on Israeli operations in Gaza will provide a serious challenge; the UK recommends consultations so that responses can be coordinated to minimize public divisions within the Western countries. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Alaistar Long, Head of UN Affairs in the Foreign Office's Human Rights Division, told Poloff on September 10 that the UK strongly supports U.S. engagement in the UN Human Rights Council and is in broad agreement with U.S. positions. He noted the difficulties associated with some of the concrete measures the U.S. was hoping to achieve and offered information about UK and EU thinking as well as suggestions for strategic approaches.
Free Speech Resolution ----------------------
3. (C/NF) Long said that the UK is willing to go along with the free speech resolution as currently written for the sake of the larger political aim of moving the human rights debate forward. The UK "can live with it," even though it does not support the language in paragraph 3(bis), which protects religions per se rather than the right of individuals to hold and practice their beliefs.
4. (C/NF) Long noted that while the UK would be amenable to going along with this language, the results of a September 9 meeting in Geneva of EU states suggest that Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and a number of other countries have more serious objections. He said that this is an especially important domestic issue in Denmark; the U.S. would likely have to either change the language or intervene at the highest levels of the Danish Government if it wanted their support. Long suggested we take another look at the resolution and try to adjust it in accordance with the Durban Review Conference Outcome Document, which "deplores... derogatory stereotyping and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief." His reading of EU sentiment is that the resolution language is a step backward from Durban and that a number of EU member states have serious qualms. Long added that Danish and other EU countries' opposition might be used by the U.S. to its tactical advantage when trying to persuade OIC countries who are still wavering. On paragraph 6 of the resolution (dealing with the media) Long said the UK and EU had reservations, but there was not as much political pressure, and they were less likely to push back.
Discriminatory Laws Against Women ---------------------------------
5. (C/NF) The UK supports the content of the Colombian/Mexican resolution to combat discriminatory laws against women. However, Long noted that the UK is concerned about the proliferation of gender-related institutions at the UN and will be asking questions about how this will fit in with existing institutions. He acknowledged that countries opposed to the resolution might use the UK's questions to bolster their opposition. Long noted that the UK could ask these questions behind closed doors to keep public debate less contentious between countries supporting women's rights.
Traditional Values ------------------
6. (C/NF) The UK agrees with the U.S. that the Russian resolution on "traditional values" is objectionable and would roll back human rights for women. However, given efforts to build bridges within the HRC (which makes outright opposition to the Russian resolution sensitive) the U.S. and UK could consider supporting the Russian proposal for an HRC Review Working Group. Originally, he said this proposal sounded like a bad idea to the UK, because HMG thought that it was too early for a formal review and preferred a more informal meeting to review HRC progress. But Long said the British have recently seen the language of the Russian proposal more favorably, as it will not call for a review until October 2010. Supporting this Russian proposal might help to ease tensions created by opposition to Russia's traditional values resolution.
Country-Specific Resolutions ----------------------------
7. (C/NF) The UK, according to Long, sees mandates and assistance targeted at specific problems in specific countries as the most useful aspect of UN human rights efforts. He said HMG supports renewal of the mandate for the Independent Expert (IE) in Somalia, while stressing the need to make sure that the actual text allows the IE enough room to act effectively. He said the UK had learned on September 9 that a number of African countries wanted to end the mandate in Burundi because the independent human rights body had been established. He said his understanding was that the law existed but that the body had not been created, so the UK agrees with our position that the mandate should continue without a need for a further resolution.
OHCHR in Liberia ----------------
8. (C/NF) Long noted that the UK Embassy in Liberia reports that Liberia is not opposed to a one-year extension of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights mandate in Liberia. The UK supports this idea; the proposed resolution would call for another report next year on human rights in Liberia.
HRC Review ----------
9. (C/NF) Long said the UK will participate in the French/Mexican-led Reflection Group on HRC Review. He was skeptical that an "institutional fix could be found to what is actually a political problem." In order to get changes (such as reducing undue focus on Israel) the U.S. and UK would need to be prepared to give something else in return. He asked if the U.S. has ideas about this and suggested a digital video conference between London and Washington on the topic as soon as possible.
Iran Membership ---------------
10. (C/NF) The UK considers it a positive step that Qatar has come forward for one of the four Asian slots on the Human Rights Council. This means that there are now five candidates (including Iran, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Maldives), which in turn means that Iran will not automatically be elected. However, he noted that Qatar had put itself forward for the Chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement last year against Iran, but then pulled out at the last second, which allowed Iran to assume the Chair unopposed. He was not sure of the reasons behind this but thought it was worth investigating whether the Qataris and Iranians had a deal and might try something similar with the Human Rights Council. Despite this hesitation, he said UK efforts are now shifting from finding new candidates to trying to lobby countries not to vote for Iran. The Maldives did not have the worldwide diplomatic presence to mount an effective campaign, and that the U.S. and UK should work together to support their (and the others') candidacies.
Goldstone Report on Israeli Actions in Gaza -------------------------------------------
121. (C/NF) Long noted that the Goldstone report on the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009 will come just as the U.S. is trying to build bridges in the Human Rights Council. The UK has not seen the report, but anticipates there will be criticism of Israeli actions. He recommended that the UK, the EU and the U.S. talk as soon as possible after the report's release to coordinate their responses. Long said political pressures in the UK will probably make it impossible for the UK to gloss over Israel's actions, and that UK politics in general are moving towards a less pro-Israel stance. He said there is a spectrum of attitudes in the EU, with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands being more pro-Israel and France, Spain, and Portugal taking a more pro-Arab point of view. However, he emphasized that if each state starts reacting publicly to the report, their positions could end up being so divergent that it would hamper efforts to move forward on the political process. Long said that even if it is not possible to come out with a common position on the report, some coordination could mitigate the report's negative effects. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX