Cablegate: South Africa Demarche Response: Unhrc 12th Session

DE RUEHSA #1860/01 2541232
R 111232Z SEP 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 093373
B. 08 PRETORIA 1287


1. (SBU) On September 10 poloffs met with Pitso Montwedi,
Chief Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at
the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
(DICO), to deliver message (ref A) on USG priorities for the
next session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC). On the
proposed Freedom of Expression resolution, Post would
recommend sharing the draft resolution with the South
Africans at the UNHRC and working with South Africa to bridge
divides between other actors. Other SAG perspectives are
offered below, notably on a poverty-related resolution and a
possible Special Rapporteur to South Africa on xenophobia.
Please see Action Request at paragraph 10. End Summary.

Overview: HRC Challenges Ahead

2. (U) After a quick summary of the four overarching U.S.
goals in re-engaging with the HRC (reftel), we asked Montwedi
for his general views on the coming session, and possible
challenges for both the USG and the SAG. (Montwedi had
advocated for U.S. participation and was exuberant in April
over the news of U.S. candidacy for a seat.) He hopes to
work jointly to strengthen the HRC, citing former Ambassador
Bolton's "profound statement" that the transition from Human
Rights Commission to HRC must be a paradigm shift and not
just a name change. "We also wanted something very
different," sighed Montwedi, "but we find that the change has
brought more of the same problems" such as politicization of
human rights, double standards, and selective targeting of
particular nations.

3. (U) Montwedi reiterated his concern (ref B) about undue
costs and duplication between the HRC and Third Committee.
This year's economic crisis and SAG austerity measures will
cut his team's travel between Geneva and New York, forcing
them to choose issues according to cost. ("If the rights of
the child will take five weeks instead of one, can we afford
to join?") South Africa is well budgeted relative to its
African neighbors, on whom the cost strain "sends the wrong
signal that Africa doesn't care about human rights." South
Africa and Egypt are alone on the continent in having
dedicated human rights officials, and only the SAG sends its
team from Geneva to New York. Other African countries ask
their New York delegations to cover the issues, resulting in
contradictory messages and "incoherence."

4. (U) Thirdly, Montwedi lamented that African countries
have no human rights structure at the level of the African
Union (AU). The European Union (EU) debates issues in
Brussels to arrive in New York with a pre-agreed position.
By contrast, the AU has no such process in Addis Ababa, and
therefore as a group Africa's views appear disjointed.

FoE: SAG's Differing View

5. (U) On the Freedom of Expression issue, discussed on
multiple occasions with Montwedi, we reiterated the U.S.
position and explored how the SAG disagrees. Montwedi
described what he saw as a "confusion in the minds of many
states" among the ICCPR's Articles 18, 19, and 20, which the
recent debates on defamation of religion had only compounded.
While the USG might view freedom of speech as unlimited (and
punishable only when it translates to violent action), the
Qpunishable only when it translates to violent action), the
SAG felt freedom of speech was more bounded, with a line
beyond which speech became incitement. In reply to the U.S.
concern that a defamation resolution could be used by
repressive states to restrict freedoms, Montwedi said such
states would behave that way regardless, and there was
nothing intrinsic or explicit in the covenants to support

6. (U) Montwedi suggested the USG could play a constructive
role in bridging a divide between the EU and Organization of
the Islamic Conference (OIC), which he described as "going in

PRETORIA 00001860 002 OF 003

different directions" on defamation. Since the EU was not
the author of the resolution, Montwedi questioned its attempt
to re-interpret the definition of defamation. For its part,
the SAG supports the defamation resolution as written.

Mandates: SAG Will Heed Others

7. (U) On the renewal of three mandates of technical
assistance to Somalia, Cambodia, and Burundi, Montwedi said
the SAG will be guided by the points of view of the countries
concerned, along with the common AU position. (Hence the SAG
was for now undecided on these three.) The SAG feels special
rapporteur and independent expert are useful mechanisms in
general, although completing mandates can become problematic
(e.g. in Sierra Leone). Montwedi chuckled over the case of
Burundi, which he said has "blown hot and cold" over human
rights assistance to such a maddening extent that the SAG has
warned Burundi it might abstain on that vote.

French Resolution on Poverty

8. (SBU) Montwedi described a French continuing resolution
related to human rights and poverty, which was "very
problematic" for the SAG. The crux of the problem, says
Montwedi, is the resolution's assertion that extreme poverty
is an equal challenge to all countries. Besides being
unrealistic, Montwedi described the notion as incoherent and
lacking vision. The SAG has raised the matter on visits to
Paris, "trying to lift the logjams." (The French escorted
South Africans to a Romani camp on the city fringes to prove
its point, but the Romanis claimed the French government had
denied them fixed housing, so SAG saw this as proof of
discrimination not poverty.) France reportedly wants an
Independent Expert (FNU Sepulveda) to produce guiding
principles on poverty eradication, to which Montwedi protests
that his ministry DICO has no authority over the domain of
economists. DICO must consult with economic bodies of the
New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and the AU,
and the HRC must not "short circuit" the Millenium
Development Goals in Africa.

TIP, Migrants, Xenophobia

9. (SBU) Montwedi said the SAG had been warned (he did not
say by whom) a motion might be raised with specific reference
to South Africa on human trafficking, undocumented migrants,
and xenophobic violence. A Special Rapporteur might be
proposed for South Africa to investigate 2008 mob attacks
against foreigners and ethnic minorities, and to ensure that
the SAG would not allow perpetrators to enjoy impunity. We
noted that the USG shares the consensus concern of local
migrant advocacy groups over the lack of any convictions on
serious charges for those attacks. Post has documented SAG
efforts involving the elimination of human trafficking and
the protection of undocumented migrants. We would be
grateful for updates from Geneva and would be prepared to
offer background and propose talking points should a debate
on this issue take place.

Q: USG Intent on Durban Follow-Up?

10. (U) Montwedi indicated there could be a racism
resolution in the HRC as well as in the General Assembly.
Immediately after the HRC session a Durban Working Group
would run for two weeks, and thereafter for another two weeks
Qwould run for two weeks, and thereafter for another two weeks
an ad hoc committee on complementary standards. Montwedi
stressed that these sessions were high priorities and "big
stakes" for the SAG, which was eager to know if the USG would
participate. ACTION REQUEST: Post requests Department
guidance via email on USG plans to to attend or not attend
the two Durban working group sessions after the HRC.

Other Issues in the Pipeline

11. (SBU) Other issues touched on were:

PRETORIA 00001860 003 OF 003

- Discriminatory Laws Against Women: the SAG had not heard of
this initiative. Montwedi thanked us for informing him, but
he did not yet have a view.

- Traditional Values: the SAG had not heard of this. When we
noted that this issue might resonate in South Africa, where
the 1994 Constitution often conflicts with the authority of
tribal chiefs, Montwedi waved this point aside and said the
SAG would support the human rights principle, without

- Child Complaints Mechanism: the SAG had heard that a Latin
American country (Chile, perhaps) would move for an Optional
Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
creating a working group to develop an international inquiry
mechanism to respond to complaints by or on behalf of
children. Montwedi had little detail, and indeed his concern
was that the concept was not clearly defined. Moreover, he
worried that the burden of implementation could be much
greater than foreseen by the proposers.

- Review of HRC Mechanisms: the SAG had heard that Russia
would propose an open-ended working group to initiate the
five-year review specified by the 2006 Act which created the

- Transnational Corporations: Montwedi suggested that Norway
might re-run a resolution on this topic.


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