UN Human Rights Chief: Governments not terrorists “will break humanity”
Governments “will break humanity” if left on their current course, the UN human rights chief said today, while also blaming Buddhist Myanmar for conducting “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” of its Muslim Rohingya minority.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on Myanmar “to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population.”
In the last three weeks, over 270,000 Rohingya people have fled to Bangladesh in inhumane conditions as their villages were razed to the ground. Myanmar is reported to be laying mines along the frontier with Bangladesh to prevent their return because it denies them nationality although they have lived there for generations.
He was speaking to the UN Human Rights Council, which is reviled by America’s UN envoy Nikki Haley and the Donald Trump administration.
Reporting on the state of human rights, Al Hussein, a Jordanian prince who is serving the final year of his current mandate, blamed governments rather than terrorists for the sorry state of human rights.
“Left on their current course, it will be governments who will break humanity. Terrorists may attack us, but the intellectual authors of those crimes will then often sit back and watch as governments peel away at human rights protections; watch, as our societies gradually unravel, with many setting course toward authoritarianism and oppression – staging for us, not a century of achievement and pride, but a century that is small, bitter and deprived, for the vast majority of humans,” he told the Council.
“Today, perhaps all of us wonder whether a trigger pulled, a steering wheel turned, or a pin tugged by the fingers of some violent extremist will strike down our future prematurely.
“But the actions of violent extremists cannot totally obliterate our world. Only governments can do that – and this is the greater tragedy of today.”
His sharp indictment of government behavior came even as Haley and the Trump administration accuse the Council and his office of being the among the most inefficient, unfair and partisan players in human rights.
In particular, they accuse the Council for bias against Israel and handling human rights violators like Iran and Russia with kid gloves while giving membership and respectability to egregious violators like Venezuela, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and China.
The Council is an independent body and Al Hussein does not set its agenda or have influence over its membership or decisions. His office implements decisions and provides reports holding countries accountable for the state of human rights.
He named about 40 countries in his speech referring to actions that could be construed as human rights violations under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related agreements.
Responding indirectly to some of Haley’s criticisms about Israel being pilloried, he said selectivity was becoming “a poison that eats away at the credibility of this body”.
“Does it not disturb governments when they seize only on some of the countries cited in my oral update and reports, ignoring others?”
Indirectly referring to her other complaints that human rights violators have seats in the Council, he suggested that “consideration be given to the need to exclude from this body States involved in the most egregious violations of human rights”.
Governments that punish human rights defenders and NGOs were committing “theft of their peoples’ inalienable rights”.
“Do they not realize that this only confirms to us, and to the world, how much oppression and injustice they exercise in their own countries?”
Referring to the US, he hoped that Congress would “act to provide former DACA beneficiaries with durable legal status”.
About the anti-Semitism and racism openly voiced in Charlottesville last month, he added, “Free speech is an invaluable and essential right, under both international standards and US law, and it should not be weaponized by calls for violence and hatred.”
“I am disturbed by the increase in detentions and deportations of well-established and law-abiding immigrants: the number of migrants detained who had no criminal convictions was 155% higher in the first five months of this year than in the equivalent period in 2016.
“Some migrants, including longstanding residents, are now so frightened of expedited deportation they refrain from accessing police protection and courtrooms; for example, reports of rape by Latina women in Houston fell by 43% in the first three months of 2017.”
Referring to the double standards of governments, he asked, “Does it not disturb governments to defend the rights of humans elsewhere – in order to project themselves as global players – while at home they openly deny the rights of their own people? Do they not recognize the hypocrisy?
Taking a swing at officials for denying human rights violations, he added, “It has been extraordinary in the past three years to see how some of these senior officials who once took a dim view of human rights will change their views fundamentally when they themselves are stripped of some of their own rights and freedoms.
“Violations of human rights should not have to become so personal, for all of us to truly grasp their importance.”