Dutch FM: “Substandard” UN council members should be “left on the bench”

This morning’s high level segment of the 13th Human Rights Council featured senior government officials from Ireland, the Netherlands, Angola and Japan. Most speeches looked forward to the 2011 review of the Human Rights Council, and raised concerns about the Council’s effectiveness in promoting and protecting human rights. 

  • The Foreign Affairs Minister of Ireland recounted his official visit to the Gaza Strip in December 2009, which marked the first visit to Gaza by an EU foreign minister in over a year. He reiterated his support for the Goldstone report, devoting the majority of his speech to a description of the “medieval siege” in Gaza that is holding the “credibility of the international community…at stake.” After a long and impassioned survey of the situation in Gaza, the delegate spent a mere paragraph mentioning the humanitarian crises in Iran, Congo, North Korea and Burma.
  • The state official from Sweden also struck a strong tone by condemning the jailing and abuse of journalists, bloggers and cyberdissidents in China, Vietnam, Burma and Cuba. “Media continues to face undue restrictions, harassment and other violations of human rights,” he said. “This Council cannot stand by while people are sentenced to death, tortured or subjected to arbitrary detention because they have exercised their most basic rights.”
  • The issue of Internet freedom was pressed upon by the Foreign Minister from the Netherlands, who praised the courage of demonstrators in Burma and Iran, calling them all members of the same team. “They may seem isolated in their struggles, but they are not. Technology is developing in their favor. Thanks to the Internet, local and global have become two sides of the same coin. Freedom of expression has gain a new, digital dimension.” He reminded that Council that they should be on the side of these activists, and expressed his dismay that “the Council’s agenda does not yet reflect all the substantive issues that need to be addressed,” namely discrimination on the basis of descent, work or sexual orientation.Citing the World Cup to take place in South Africa, the Dutch FM compared the Council to a football team and expressed dissatisfaction at the membership of states with failing human rights records. “The players on our team, the members of the Council, should have to qualify to play and adhere to the rules that this Council seeks to promote universally. If their performance is substandard, they should be left on the bench. This Council should not have members whose records are not up to par.”

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