Saturday, February 14, 2009

U.N. Delegates Laud Chinese Death Penalty and Internet Censorship

From a UN Watch email briefing, 13/2/09:

"U.N. rights council becoming Mutual Praise Society," says UN Watch 125-page report, featured in Reuters, Associated Press, South China Morning Post, Canadian Press, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Ottawa Citizen, United Arab Emirates' The National...

GENEVA, February 12, 2009 — Delegates to a U.N. meeting this week on China's human rights record praised Beijing for practicing the death penalty, imposing internet censorship, and for being a "moral and ethical country."

While Western countries challenged China, many others congratulated it. Egypt lauded China's "endeavor to protect human rights and socio-economic development" and said "we understand the need of China to keep the death penalty." Iran congratulated China's "efforts to promote human rights" and, citing "the negative impact of the internet," encouraged China to tighten censorship to prohibit "defamation of religion." Cuba praised China for being an "exceptional country," and urged it to enforce "stict compliance with law. . . to prevent people disguised as human rights activists from trying to destroy the state."

China's review came under the U.N. Human Rights Council's flagship review mechanism, known as Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

According to a new 124-page study by the Geneva-based UN Watch, a human rights monitoring group, only 8 of the 47 member states of the Council, including Canada, France and Britain, took a constructive approach to scrutinizing each other’s human rights records since UPR began last year.

Entitled “Mutual Praise Society,” the report found that the peer review sessions of the Council are being misused by countries to praise allies and criticize enemies instead of highlighting genuine cases of abuse.

UN Watch rated the performance of 32 other countries—including Russia, Iran, China and Cuba—as detrimental to destructive. The report evaluated 300 speeches made by 55 countries, including several that participate in the council as non-voting observers.

Major newswires and newspapers around the world -- from the Persian Gulf to Hong Kong to Canada -- quoted UN Watch's report. Click here to see the worldwide media coverage.

While the U.N. promised to reform itself with a procedure that would hold all countries to account on an objective and equal basis, and help human rights victims worldwide, instead the council has turned into a mutual praise society, giving a free pass to the world’s worst abusers.

In the current session alone, we saw Libya praise Cuba for "promoting freedom of thought and expression," when Havana continues to keep human rights defenders and journalists behind bars, and Chinese praise for Saudi Arabia's record on women’s rights, when they can neither vote nor drive a car.

But it’s not just repressive regimes protecting each other. Many democracies, too, are failing to review countries seriously, with some—like India, South Africa and Uruguay—undermining the process by congratulating countries for practices that deserve condemnation.

Click here to see the report’s key findings and recommendations.

Click here to download a pdf version of the full 125-page report.
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