This week the UN was diverted from real human rights problems for a week-long political exercise on the so-called “right to peace.”
Last July, Cuba presented a draft resolution on “The Right to Peace,” which recognized a “right to resist and oppose oppressive colonial foreign occupation or dictatorial domination.” We commented on it in this plenary speech:
According to experts, this could be seen as an avenue to legitimize terrorism. Countries such as Syria, Sudan, Belarus, China, Sri Lanka, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, supported the resolution, while countries such as the United States and the European Union did not. As the EU stated, they do not support the formation of the working group for many reasons including, but not limited to the fact that, “it is evident that there is no legal basis for the ‘right to peace’ in international law, either as an individual or collective right.”
Based on last year’s resolution, an open-ended intergovernmental working group was established to collectively strive towards a draft UN declaration on the Right to Peace. After a four-day meeting, a draft document was presented but many controversies still remain.
The United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, South Korea and others rejected the so-called right to peace. The US claimed that it is “neither recognized nor defined.” Such a right “could do serious damage” in undermining other international organs and structures. Lastly, it cannot be called a “right” as these refer to individuals and not groups. “These conceptual gaps seem to be insurmountable.”
Many delegates stated that the relationship between peace and human rights is a close and important one. However, this “suggests an unacceptable hierarchy to human rights. Lack of peace cannot serve as an excuse for government to not comply with human rights.” Other major controversies include whether or not there is a legal basis for the right to peace in international law, whether or not there is a clear link between disarmament and the right to peace, and whether or not private military and security companies should be regulated.
Through the debate, it became clear that many of the avid supporters of this working group and the draft are merely using the right to peace as a shield behind which they will hide their own human rights violations. Many oppressive regimes took the opportunity to highlight their support to this notion. Examples abide:
- Syria: “We all agree that the right to peace is not only a basic and necessary right, but is in fact inseparable from the most fundamental right, which is the right to life.”
- Cuba: “Cuba reaffirms the right to peace as a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of all human rights, in particular the right to life.”
- Iran: “The exercise of the right to peace and its promotion demands policies towards the elimination of the threat of war, particularly nuclear war, the renunciation of the use of threat of use of force in international relations…”
- Sri Lanka: “Sri Lanka supports the process of codification of the right to peace… Peace is a precondition for the enjoyment of all other human rights.”
- Venezuela: “The true enjoyment of the right to peace, the fulfillment of its effective application, unites us again, to confront those who, nowadays, reclaim the right to war, their principle instrument of domination.”