UN Human Rights Council, Sept. 24, 2012, Debate under Agenda Item 8: Vienna Declaration and Program of Action
Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre: I recognize UN Watch.
UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer: Thank you, Madam President. The Vienna Declaration recognizes that the promotion and the protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community. But how should this Council focus the world’s attention?
Speaking here two weeks ago, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged us to scrutinize aspiring Council members.
One candidate for the upcoming election is Pakistan. Despite its solemn undertakings under the Vienna Declaration and other international instruments, the government of Pakistan continues to commit gross and systematic human rights violations:
It turns a blind eye as women across Pakistan have acid thrown on their faces in actions that are supposed to promote honor;
A disabled Christian girl was arrested for blasphemy;
And Asia Bibi a Christian mother of five, remains on death row, also for blasphemy.
Another candidate is Venezuela. In 2009, this Council had instructed Venezuela to release a prisoner who was being arbitrarily detained. Judge Maria Afiuni released that prisoner, complying with the request of this Council’s Working Group of Arbitrary Detention. The judge was promptly thrown in prison, with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez going on live TV to demand she receive 30 years in prison, and adding that in other times she would have been shot.
Finally, we also need to look at countries who in these very halls hold out their promotion of human rights.
Earlier today, there was an event held downstairs sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It declared that women’s status in Iran is a model for the world.
Yet according to the BBC, more than 30 Iranian universities have just introduced rules banning female students from almost 80 different degree courses — from engineering, nuclear physics and computer science, to English literature, archaeology and business.
Madam President, is this respect for women’s rights?
Similarly, according to Amnesty International’s latest annual report, women are discriminated against in law and in practice, including by mandatory dress code.
Finally, Madam President, the president of Iran calls for genocide against a UN member state, and is about to speak before the UN.
Should he not be held accountable and indicted for the crime of incitement to genocide, instead of being granted the UN podium?
Thank you, Madam President.
President: Thank you. I now recognize Iran, for a point of order.
Iran: (Mr. Seyed Hossein Zolfaghari) Madam President. Please remind the speaker to speak on a acceptable language of the Council and avoid irrevo… ivertible… accept [sic]. Thank you.
President: Thank you very much, Iran. And thank you for the reminder to the room, which applies to all delegations. I would also like to remind you that governmental organizations can exercise the right to reply later on — but I now see the United States, for a point of order.
United States of America: (Ms. Sarah M. Brooks) Thank you, Madam President. We highlight that the United States firmly believes that accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak in the Council. Though member states, including the US, may occasionally disagree with the content of NGO statements, it is essential that civil society voices be heard here in an atmosphere of open expression.
Without addressing the substance of the speaker’s statement, we are of the opinion that what we have heard of the intervention was indeed addressing the subject matter at hand before this Council on the Vienna Declaration. Madam President, we respectfully ask you — or would thank you, in fact, to have allowed the speaker to finish his presentation. Thank you.
President: Thank you, United States. We are, of course, debating Agenda Item 8, which focuses on the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, which contains many political commitments as are entered into by all states party, all of these held under different chapters and headings. Many delegations have been able to refer to those specific situations as a result of the framework of the discussion.