As Venezuelans die on the streets, UN Human Rights Council remains mum

What a travesty. Despite Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s bloody repression of opposition protests that has resulted in more than 100 dead, thousands of wounded and hundreds of political prisoners over the past three months, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has not uttered a single word about Venezuela’s human rights crisis.
The Geneva-based UNHRC, whose job is to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights across the world, has not issued one single resolution about Venezuela, nor convened any urgent session to discuss the crisis there, nor called for any inquiry into the deaths of protesters by armed government-backed mobs.
There is a reason for that inaction, of course. About half of the council’s 47 member countries are dictatorships — including Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela — who defend one another against charges of human-rights violations. In fact, the UNHRC is a mutual protection society for the world’s worst dictatorships.
“The council is entitled to call an emergency session on Venezuela any day, and given what is happening on the streets there, they should have done that,” says Hillel Neuer, head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group. “But they have never called for an emergency session on Venezuela.
“They should have created a commission of inquiry on what is happening there, and they have not done that either. On the contrary, Venezuela was recently re-elected to the council.”
Neither the United States nor other democracies represented at the council presented any motions to the council condemning Venezuela’s human rights abuses.
The Trump administration, aside from a few photo shots of President Donald Trump with Venezuelan opposition figures and some targeted visa sanctions against Venezuelan officials that had been started by the Obama administration, has been largely invisible in the Venezuelan crisis.
Trump has not yet appointed a US ambassador to the UN in Geneva, which is one of the reasons why there was no high-level pressure on the council to debate the Venezuelan case, critics say. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations in New York, made a brief visit to Geneva during the UNHRC sessions in June, but only held a side event on Venezuela outside the council’s session.
The Trump administration’s diplomatic inexperience and ineptitude were also evident at the Organization of American States’ June special meeting of foreign ministers on Venezuela. The absence of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at that meeting helped make it possible for a handful of tiny Caribbean islands to effectively defeat a condemnation of Venezuela’s regime by 20 countries in the region.
The Trump administration has said it is considering pulling out of the UNHRC unless the council reforms itself. Haley has rightly noted that the council’s seats should be awarded through competitive voting to keep the worst human-rights violators out of it.
As it is now, council members are appointed by their regional blocs. That allows countries that desperately want to be in the council — such as Cuba and Venezuela — to trade favours with their neighbours in exchange for their appointments to the UNHRC.
But most independent human-rights groups say it would be unwise for the Trump administration to pull out of the UNHRC. They say the council was even worse before the Obama administration decided to join it in 2009.
Asked whether the United States should resign from the council, Neuer told me, “It’s a dilemma. But when George W Bush decided to pull out, the council did not get better. It got worse. The United States should appoint a human-rights hero as ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Send someone who will fight.”
My opinion: I agree, although I doubt that the Trump administration will have any credibility as a leader on human-rights issues. Trump has already embraced the dictators of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and several other countries, breaking a long-standing tradition by Republican and Democratic presidents to speak out against human-rights abuses everywhere.
The best course of action would be for all democracies, including the United States, to start raising their voices and denouncing the UNHRC for what it is — a monumental joke.

Comments  

Maduro and Putin must be celebrating Trump’s threat to revoke NBC’s license

Late Venezuelan populist demagogue Hugo Chavez must have cheered in his grave when President Donald Trump made a veiled threat to pull NBC off the air for spreading news he dislikes.

By ,

This is no joke: Bolivian ruler invokes his ‘human right’ to stay in power

While many of us were trying to absorb the news of the Las Vegas massacre and President Trump’s bungled response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, a growing political scandal in South America went almost unnoticed in the media: Bolivia’s populist President Evo Morales is making an illegal bid to run for a fourth term in office.

By ,

Latin America’s political map may change in 2018, but perhaps not for the better

Here’s a fact that few people are taking into account when talking about the Venezuelan crisis or Latin America in general: the region’s biggest countries will have elections over the next 12 months, which could change the hemisphere’s political map.

By ,

While Venezuelans are forced to eat rabbits, Maduro tries to fool the world

Facing escalating international sanctions, Venezuela’s autocrat Nicolas Maduro is offering a new “dialogue” with the opposition and national elections at the end of 2018.

By ,

Will Miami disappear under the rising sea? Here’s why it won’t

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, I have received emails from friends and relatives all over the world asking whether this city will drown under the sea or be blown away by hurricanes over the next few decades.

By ,

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now

×