UNHRC draws world-wide flak over election of China & Pak as members

NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON: While rebuking the UN Human Rights Council over the election of China, Russia and Cuba as its members, the US on Wednesday said its stand to withdraw from the council two years ago, has been vindicated.

“The election of China, Russia, and Cuba to the UN Human Rights Council validates the US’ decision to withdraw from the Council in 2018 and use other venues to protect and promote universal human rights. At UNGA this year, we did just that,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted.

The US’ commitment to human rights, he said, is far more than just words. “We have identified and punished human rights abusers in Xinjiang, Myanmar, Iran and elsewhere, and call for all nations to take this moment to recommit to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).”

While China won a seat at the UNHRC by a smal margin on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia was defeated in the elections to the premier global body for human rights. Pakistan, however, was re-elected to the UNHRC.

China’s got elected to the UNHRC despite the fact that the UN experts earlier this year called on the international community to take collective and decisive action to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime ends violations of its international obligations and human rights of its citizens.

In a statement issued by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), the experts, who are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, had said that it is time for renewed attention on the human rights situation in China, particularly in light of the moves against the people of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), minorities of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and human rights defenders across the country.

They had urged the UNHRC to act with a sense of urgency to take all appropriate measures to monitor Chinese human rights practices.

In a strong reaction to the election of Russia, China, Pakistan and Cuba, the countries known for their abysmal record on human rights violations, many people on social media lashed out at the UNHRC.

Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer on human rights and executive director of United Nations Watch based in Geneva condemned the election of the four countries. “Today is a black day for human rights–UN’s newest world judges on human rights include: Pakistan–persecutes Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis. China–herded one million Uyghurs into camps. Russia–poisons dissidents. Cuba–police state. The inmates are running the asylum.”

India’s top foreign policy expert Brahma Chellany tweeted,”China, despite incarcerating more than a million Muslims, unleashing harsh repression in Tibet and killing detainees to harvest their organs for transplant, wins a UN Human Rights Council seat. It secures 30 votes less than its proxy, Pakistan. The Council is becoming irrelevant.”

Apart from dozens of journalists and activists who expressed outrage, social media influencers like Surendra Poonia questioned the UNHRC too. “How come your organization is not able to see atrocities on minorities in Pakistan and torture camps in China where Uyghur Muslims are tortured? It is like a brutal killer getting awarded for non-violence,” he tweeted.

In a scathing commentary, Pakistan’s own human rights commission earlier this year had expressed deep concerns about the state of human rights of ethnic minorities in the country. In its annual report, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said, “The year 2019 will be remembered for the systematic curbing of political dissent by various means, constraints to the freedom of the mainstream media, digital surveillance, and the over-regulation of social media spaces.”

Curbs on freedom of opinion and expression continued to escalate, the commission said pointing out that it had become “more difficult to speak or write openly — if at all — on ‘sensitive’ issues such as enforced disappearances, or to criticise state policy or security agencies in these areas” for journalists in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular.