On the same day that Russia issued an ultimatum to Ukraine either to hand over Crimea or prepare for a Russian military assault on that sovereign nation, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations thanked delegates for supporting Russia’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
During the opening session of the UNHRC, on Monday, March 3, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov thanked delegates for supporting Russia’s election to the Council. He said that vote was “an acknowledgement of our country’s constructive approach to this sphere of multilateral cooperation.” He added, that “the protection of human and civil rights and freedoms is a basic priority.”
The irony was apparently too much even for longstanding residents of the Orwellian world of the U.N.
The response by a coalition of government members, non-governmental organizations and human rights activists was to kick off a global campaign to suspend the memberships of Russia and fellow human rights abusers China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The four took their seats Monday as the UNHRC’s newest members.
They based their effort on Article 8 of the UNHRC charter, which permits the suspension of member states guilty of gross and systematic violations of human rights. There is a precedent. In 2011, Libya was suspended after a similar campaign was led by the Geneva-based human rights NGO UN Watch, which is also spearheading this effort.
“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 UN Watch.
“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.”
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.
Irwin Cotler, member of Canadian Parliament, former Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada joined with other parliamentary leaders who signed UN Watch’s #dictatorfreeHRC campaign to suspend China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudia Arabia from the UNHRC.
Colter said, “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.”
Matyas Eörsi, a former member of the Hungarian parliament and the former president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, spoke harshly about the membership in the UNHRC.
“With such members in the Human Rights Council, the UN continues to remain a lame 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.”
This is a video describing the effort to remove dictatorships from sitting in judgment as members of the UN Human Rights Council.