Human Rights and the UN – Hypocrisy incarnate

Human RightsThe UN has a Human Rights Council, UNHRC, an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.

Now that is a really fantastic thing to have, the fact that humans have agreed to create such an entity is truly applause worthy, and in fact, here is a nice quote …

“All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.” – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, 12 March 2007, Opening of the 4th Human Rights Council Session

There is however one rather glaring flaw with all of this that deserves a considerable degree of criticism. Eight of the 47 countries that hold seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council imprisoned people in 2013 under laws that restrict religious freedom, according to a new report from Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Belgium.

In other words, a good chunk of the body responsible for the protection of human rights consist of member states that breach some rather basic human rights, and that is perhaps akin to appointing a gang of local poachers to be your gamekeepers … no not poachers who have turned into gamekeepers, but rather poachers who are still poachers.

What Rights?

Namely Freedom of thought … or to rephrase that … the right to hold whatever religious belief you wish to adhere to even when it is obviously not true, or to hold no belief at all and so no specific belief and its associated practises should ever be mandatory … period.

Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.N. General Assembly adopted in 1948, explicitly protect freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression. In other words, anybody who is a UN member has signed up for this and agreed to enforce it.

Naming and Shaming the Guilty?

The eight UNHRC member states on the group’s second annual World Freedom of Religion or Belief Prisoners List, released Monday (Dec. 30), are Morocco, China and Saudi Arabia, and current members India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya and South Korea.

According to the report’s findings from 2013: (Side note: that link does not work properly in Safari, but works just fine in other browsers such as Opera)

  • In China, Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims and Falun Gong adherents were arrested for proselytizing, holding illegal gatherings, providing religious education classes and publicizing their persecution.

  • In Morocco, a convert to Christianity was arrested and fined for “shaking the faith of a Muslim” by sharing his newfound beliefs.

  • In Saudi Arabia, 52 Ethiopian Christians were arrested for participating in a private religious service.

  • In India, Protestants were arrested for holding private prayer meetings.

  • In Indonesia, a Pentecostal pastor was arrested for holding religious services without a valid permit, and an atheist was sentenced to 30 months in prison for starting an atheist Facebook page where he posted the words “God does not exist.”

  • In Kazakhstan, an atheist was arrested for allegedly inciting religious hatred in his writings.

  • In Libya, foreign missionaries, dozens of Coptic Christians and a Protestant were arrested and allegedly tortured for proselytizing.

  • In South Korea, nearly 600 Jehovah’s Witnesses were serving prison sentences for conscientious objection to mandatory military service.

There are of course other nations mentioned in the report, the specific concern here is that the above 8 are all members of the UN Human Rights Committee, and that is rather shocking.

Seriously UN … what were you thinking when you appointed nations that openly breach human rights to the committee that is supposed to police human rights, it not only creates a horrendous conflict of interest, but will also enable such abuses to continue by ensuring that the UNHRC has no teeth.

As reported in the Washington Post …

The UNHRC replaced the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 2006, in part “to redress (the Commission’s) shortcoming,” which included granting membership to countries with poor human rights records. The resolution establishing the revamped UNHRC declares that member states “shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

But that’s not happening, said Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers.

“Our best wish for the New Year is that these and the other member states of the Human Rights Council may give the good example to other nations of the world by releasing such prisoners of conscience and not depriving any other believer or atheist of their freedom in 2014,” he said in a statement.

Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.N. General Assembly adopted in 1948, explicitly protect freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression.

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