Diplomacy: Fracas at the UN Human Rights Council

Flags of member nations flying at United Nations Headquarters. 30/Dec/2005. UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/


Why would Bahrain and Syria block the appointment of Fiji’s UN ambassador, Nazhat Shameem Khan, to lead the United Nations’ Human Rights Council? Ms. Khan is a well-regarded diplomat and jurist and was reported to be on track for a consensus selection.

The presidency of the UN Human Rights Council rotates annually, and for this coming year it goes to a candidate from the Southeast Asia/Pacific region. The NY Times notes the annual leadership change is typically not very contentious. Until now.

Apparently it’s time for payback and damage control. Bahrain is tight with Saudi Arabia, and Syria is backed by Russia. Fiji actively supported investigations by the Human Rights Council into allegations of violations in places such as Venezuela, Belarus, Syria and Yemen. Neither the Saudis nor the Russians were thrilled with these investigations.

Leadership of the UN Human Rights Council is important. There should be investigations of member countries’ conduct. Citizens of Earth need to know what our governments are doing and, if there are violations of human rights, they should be exposed and publicized.

Human rights can be a sensitive and embarrassing topic. Governments that abuse the human rights of their citizens aren’t generally pleased to be called to account in the court of international public opinion.

What are the Saudis and Russians afraid of?