Sunday, December 16, 2012

Th UN Human Rights Council rewards Mauritania, where slavery still thrives

Read CNN's special report on Mauritania: Slavery's Last Stronghold here.

It’s hard to believe but slavery still exists in today’s world. One of the world’s worst offenders is Mauritania, where a fifth of the people – as many as 800,000 out of a population of 3.5 million – are slaves.

The United Nations has reacted to this awful situation, but not by condemning it. Instead, the UN has elected Mauritania to the position of Vice-President and Rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council. Thus Mauritania now has boasting rights as a UN recognized champion of Human Rights. 

Mauritania will also be able to report on human rights conditions in other countries. Canada, for example, might receive condemnation from Mauritania, just as earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Council sent a special rapporteur to check up on whether Canadians were starving and condemned our government for not making sure we’re properly fed. You couldn't make this stuff up. 

Next time you hear anything about the UN Human Rights Council, remember Mauritania, and understand that the purpose of the UN Human Rights Council is not to protect human rights, but rather to protect human rights abusers.

Here’s the full release from UN Watch…

Human Rights Day Marred by Election of Slave-holding
Mauritania as VP of UN Human Rights Council 

Syria remains on UNESCO human rights committee

GENEVA, Dec. 10 – UN Watch condemned today's election of Mauritania, a country that allows 800,000 of its citizens to live as slaves, as Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Council.

In addition, the Geneva-based group also announced the failure of its yearlong campaign, with 55 MPs and NGOs, to get UNESCO to remove Syria from its human rights committee.

1. Mauritania Elected Today as VP of UN Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council met today in Geneva and elected Mauritania as its Vice-President and Rapporteur for the next year, the second highest position at the world's top human rights body.

"It is obscene for the U.N. to use the occasion of Human Rights Day, when we commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to elect the world's worst enabler of slavery to this prestigious post," said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director.

"The U.N. is making an arsonist head of the fire department. It defies both morality and common sense."

According to a recent report by the Guardian, "up to 800,000 people in a nation of 3.5 million remain chattels," with power and wealth overwhelmingly concentrated among lighter-skinned Moors, "leaving slave-descended darker-skinned Moors and black Africans on the edges of society."

In today's session, Poland was elected president, while Ecuador, Maldives, and Switzerland were also elected as vice-presidents.

Neuer also objected to Ecuador's election, citing its "notorious record of censoring independent journalists and shutting down newspapers."

UN Watch expressed regret that while the dictatorship of Belarus took the floor in today's meeting to criticize the election of Poland, none of the democracies said a word about the election of Mauritania or Ecuador.

2. One Year Later, Despite Appeals, Syria Still on UNESCO Human Rights Committee

Despite having murdered tens of thousands of its own people, the Bashar al-Assad regime remains a full member of UNESCO's human rights committee, "and no one at UNESCO seems to care the slighest bit," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

This week marks one year since UN Watch launched its campaign of 55 parliamentarians, human rights and religious groups calling for Syria's expulsion, following UNESCO's inexplicable election of the regime to a committee that rules on invividual human rights complaints worldwide.

"It's time for UNESCO to stop legitimizing a government that mercilessly murders its own people," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

"UNESCO is allowing the Assad regime to strut in Paris as a U.N. human rights arbiter -- it's indefensible and an insult to Syria's victims."

After UNESCO elected Syria to its human rights committee in November 2011, UN Watch launched a campaign to reverse the decision, prompting the US and Britain to initiate a March 2012 debate at UNESCO.

However, while a resolution was adopted censuring Syria's violations -- a welcome first for UNESCO -- the promised call to oust the regime from UNESCO's human rights panel was excised.

U.S. ambassador David Killion had urged UNESCO to revisit the decision. The watered-down text included language suggesting UNESCO chief Irina Bokova could raise the issue again, but she has failed to do so.(See links at bottom.)

Earlier this year, UN Watch had received notice from the British Foreign Office that it would seek to cancel Syria’s “abhorrent” membership. 

In an email to UN Watch, the UK said it “deplores the continuing membership of Syria on this committee and does not believe that Syria’s presence is conducive to the work of the body or UNESCO’s reputation. We have therefore joined with other countries in putting forward an item for the first meeting of the Executive Board at which we will seek to explicitly address Syria’s membership of the body.”

The UK also expressed hope that other members of the executive board will join London in ending what it called “this abhorrent [and] anomalous situation.”

Paris insiders say that UNESCO diplomats from non-democratic regimes are afraid to create a precedent of ousting repressive governments.

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