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No action at UN commission

Suhas Chakma

The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in his address on International Day of Reflection on 1994 Genocide in Rwanda at the ongoing 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on April 7, urged the need to address the scale of reported human rights abuses and at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. Both Mr Annan and US President George Bush called for "continuum of steps which may include military action".

The Rwandan genocide provides instructive lessons for interventions in such extreme cases but the CHR does not seem to be concerned. At the ongoing session, Sudan is likely to obtain support from Malaysia, China and India given the involvement of the state-owned oil companies of China's China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia's Petronas (Petrolium Nasional Berhad) and India's Oil and Natural Gas (ONGC) Videsh Ltd in the exploration of oil in Sudan.

These state-owned oil companies from Asia replaced the Talisman Energy Inc of Canada and Lundin Oil AB of Sweden, which withdrew in 2002 amidst allegations of complicity in human rights violations. At the 59th session, both the US and EU helped Sudan not to be censured under country resolutions but rewarded it with technical cooperation programme.

It is hypocrisy at its best. As another war unfolds in Iraq, the CHR remains silent. The situation in Iraq is increasingly turning akin to neighbouring occupied Arab territories of West Bank and Gaza. The need to protect the civilians in Iraq and monitor present violations of human rights and humanitarian laws by parties in conflict in Iraq is paramount. But, the focus of many NGOs and government is on past offences under Saddam's regime.

The EU, which sponsored the resolution on the situation of human rights in Iraq at the height of the conflict in 2003, has decided not to sponsor a similar resolution. The Asian block is reportedly examining whether it has the backbone to spring last minute surprise to sponsor a resolution on the situation of human rights in Iraq. The CHR is set to shame itself by its failure to sponsor a resolution on the situation of human rights in Iraq.

When the ongoing UN Commission on Human Rights votes on country resolutions on April 15, it will witness many No Action Motions - a procedural tactic to prevent explanation before the votes on the resolutions. Though the 60th session of the CHR has already set a good precedent by adopting a resolution on human rights situation in Uzbekistan with overwhelming majority under the 1503 Confidential Procedure, it is unlikely to have positive effects. The adoption of the resolution on Uzbekistan with overwhelming majority has reportedly rattled China which fears that its "No Action Motion" against the US sponsored resolution on human rights situation in China may be defeated.

Open sessions of the CHR have also been marked by increasing acrimony over allegations of politicisation and selectivity. The US's bias towards Israel and its allies in West Asia and unilateral coercive measures against Cuba often dilute genuine concerns about the systemic human rights violations on the countries on which draft resolutions are being sponsored: Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chechnya of the Russian Federation, Democratic Republic Congo, Burundi, Myanmar and Turkmenistan.

As none expects that resolution on human rights situation in China will be adopted, the question of human rights situation in China has been reduced to whether the US will be able to cross the Chinese "No Action Motion" hurdle. Zimbabwe, which sustained its "No Action Motion" in 2002 at the height of oppression by the Mugabe regime, once again will use the "no-action motion". If the EU is serious about the resolution on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, it must address the land reforms while condemning illegal methods and gross human rights violations by President Mugabe's regime and the ruling Zanu-PF militias.

The country resolutions are also linked with the resolutions under agenda item 19 on technical cooperation programmes. The draft resolution on technical cooperation assistance to Nepal sponsored by Switzerland has so far failed to make headway. Most Asian countries opined to support the resolution only if Nepal agreed. Nepal, which depends heavily on external aid, does not oppose the technical cooperation per se but opposes a report to the commission on its human rights record. It wants the money without any monitoring.

A chairman statement which also acknowledges empty 25-point programme on human rights announced by Nepal is being negotiated at present. In all likelihood, Nepal, which is caught in conflict with the Maoists, will join the post-conflict countries such as Timor Leste, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Sierra Leone to receive technical cooperation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As the conflict intensifies in Nepal with no clear sign of Nepal's acceptance of UN mediation for bringing an end to the civil war, a Chairman's statement will make a mockery of the prevailing conflict and human rights situations in Nepal.


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