So, no change there…

So the UN has elected 47 member countries to its new Human Rights Council to no small degree of derision amongst activists, as amongst those countries elected are such notable paragons of humanitarian concern as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan…

You get the general picture – more than a few foxes have been put in charge of the Human Rights hen house.

Of course, most of the attention has been grabbed by the presence of countries who are well known for their appalling human rights record, but in case anyone gets the wrong idea and starts thinking about this in terms of ‘a few bad apple’, I thought I’d pick out three or four of the less well-known members of this new UN Council just to see what we expect from them – all information is from the US State Department.

So let’s start with Africa and the Cameroon, a country about which most people’s knowledge runs about as far as their football team and the guy who used to dance round the corner flag when he scored (Roger Milla).

So what have they got to offer?

severe limits on citizens’ ability to change their government
numerous unlawful killings by security forces
regular torture, beatings, and other abuses of persons, particularly detainees and prisoners, by security forces
impunity among the security forces
harsh and life-threatening prison conditions
arbitrary arrest and detention of Anglophone citizens advocating secession, local human rights monitors/activists, and other citizens
prolonged–and sometimes incommunicado–pretrial detention
infringement on citizens’ privacy rights
restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association
abuse and harassment of journalists
limits on freedom of movement
widespread corruption
violence, including rape, and discrimination against women
trafficking in persons, primarily children
societal discrimination against indigenous Pygmies and ethnic minorities
discrimination against homosexuals
restrictions on worker rights and the activities of independent labor organizations
child labor, slavery, and forced labor, including forced child labor

Oh, well, never mind – how about one of the ‘tiger economies’ of South-East Asia, surely that must be better… let’s try Malaysia:

abridgement of citizens’ right to change their government
incomplete investigation of detainee deaths and prisoner abuse
overcrowded prisons
detention of persons without trial or adequate access to legal representation
lengthy confinement of immigrants in detention camps in poor and overcrowded conditions
corporal punishment (caning) of illegal migrants and other prisoners
restrictions on freedom of the press
restrictions on freedom of assembly and association
increased constraints on the ability of Muslims to change their religion
violence against women
treatment of trafficking victims as illegal migrants
ethnic discrimination
minimal labor law protection for household workers

Well, its a shorter list, I suppose… How about something a bit closer to home – like Azerbaijan…

restricted right of citizens to peacefully change their government
torture and beating of persons in custody, leading to four deaths
arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of political opponents
harsh and life-threatening prison conditions
police impunity
lengthy pretrial detention
pervasive corruption in the judiciary
some restrictions of privacy rights
periodic interference with media freedom
excessive use of force to disperse demonstrations
limited instances of violence and societal discrimination against women
trafficking in persons
limited workers’ rights

Nope, that’s no real improvement either. I tell you what, as the last one for this post, why don’t we take a look in America’s backyard and go for good old Guatemala…

unlawful killings committed by members of the security forces
widespread societal violence, including numerous killings
police involvement in kidnappings
harsh and dangerous prison conditions
arbitrary arrest and detention
failure of the judicial system to ensure full and timely investigation, fair trials, or due process
failure to protect judicial sector officials, witnesses, and civil society organizations from intimidation
impunity
discrimination and violence against women
trafficking in persons, including commercial sexual exploitation of children
ethnic discrimination, particularly against indigenous people
ineffective enforcement of labor laws, including child labor provisions

And… we’re still no better off here are we?

So tell me again, why have we got this new UN Council – oh yeah, that was it, because the old Human Rights Commission lacked credibility due to its membership…

Huh?

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