Archive for the 'Universal Periodic Review (UPR)' Category

Crimes Against Humanity… But Keep Up the Good Work

Today, the barbaric North Korean regime tried to whitewash its human rights record as it underwent a mandatory review before the UN Human Rights Council.

A UN Commission of Inquiry recently found Pyongyang guilty of crimes against humanity. Yet today the regime denied the existence of political prison camps, the practice of public executions, and the limitation of travel. It blamed external forces for much of the country’s malaise.

Regrettably, several other nations backed North Korea, echoing the regime’s propaganda and providing a false image of the human rights situation there. Examples:

  • Iran: “We would like to commend North Korea’s constructive engagement in the UPR process.”
  • Venezuela: “Despite the blockade that has been imposed on the country, North Korea has free and universal medical care and has modernized certain health and production centers.”
  • China: “We commend DPRK for adopting legislative and admin measures.”
  • Laos: “We are pleased to note that the DPRK has ratified several human rights conventions.”
  • Syria: “We would like to congratulate the realization of the right to education and the right to health.”

Nevertheless, several countries took the floor to hold the regime to account in a serious fashion, including Greece, the Czech Republic, Canada, U.S., UK, Sweden, and Poland.

North Korea, 4.5 years late, rejects all meaningful UPR recommendations

When nations are reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), it is customary that they identify which recommendations they accept or reject during the HRC session that follows the UPR and formally adopts the report. But North Korea did so only this week, 4.5 years later, ahead of its scheduled review today. Regrettably, it rejected all meaningful recommendations. These include:

• Cooperate with all UN special rapporteurs, including the rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, right to food, violence against women and torture.
• Provide unlimited access to ICRC to all detention facilities in the country.
• Decriminalize unauthorized travel.

Recommendations that were rejected on the ground in December 2009 include:

• Grant access, as a matter of priority, to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea.
• Abolishing the death penalty, end all public and extrajudicial executions, practice of arbitrary detention and torture.
• Put an end to kidnapping and enforced disappearance of persons, whatever their country of origin.
• End collective punishment of families, especially against children.
• Put an end to forced labour practices.
• Ensure an independent judicial system and the individual’s right to a fair trial.
• Release all political prisoners, persons detained for reasons related to their opinions or peaceful political activities, and members of their family.
• Put an end to the practice of incarcerating all the members of the family of every opposition figure.
• Allow freedom of movement of its citizens within and across the border and end the punishment of those expelled or returned from abroad, including refugees and asylum-seekers.

North Korea lies to the world ahead of its UN review

North Korea submitted a report to the UN, ahead of its scheduled review, which whitewashes the widespread and systematic human rights violations committed by the regime’s leadership. Through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is set to review North Korea’s record on May 1.

At the 25th HRC session that concluded last week, the Commission of Inquiry on North Korea presented a damning 400-page report, which details “violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion, discrimination, violations of the freedom of movement and residence, violations of the right to food and related aspects of the right to life, arbitrary detention, torture, executions and prison camps, abductions and enforced disappearances from other countries as well as crimes against humanity.” A strong resolution which asks the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of its leaders was also adopted.

North Korea denied the detailed report as biased, called the witnesses “criminals” and rejected the report as an “anti-DPRK conspiracy on the part of the United States and its followers” and as a means for Western countries to intervene its internal affairs as well as its sovereignty. During the adoption of the resolution, the North Korean Ambassador told the UN member States “to mind your own business, which means that one needs to see his or her face in the mirror to check how nasty it is before talking about others.”

North Korea submitted its National Report for the UPR which claims that it has cooperated with UN mechanisms (when in fact it consistently blocks access to UN investigators) and that the human rights situation in the country has improved. Below are 10 excerpts from the National Report, which give a false image of “happiness” in the country, when the numerous testimonies of victims tell us otherwise.

Continue reading ‘North Korea lies to the world ahead of its UN review’

UN adopts report praising Saudi Arabia’s human rights record

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer testified before the UN Human Rights Council today about its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on Saudi Arabia.

Mr. President, the purpose of this review is to apply scrutiny to every UN member state, in order to promote and protect human rights. Does this report on Saudi Arabia live up to this goal?

Let us consider by reading from the report.

Page 7:

“China commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote economic, social and cultural rights [and] welcomed efforts to promote dialogue and tolerance among religious groups.”

Page 9:

  • “Iraq commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote and protect human rights.”
  • “Jordan commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote and protect human rights.”
  • “Egypt welcomed Saudi Arabia’s work to strengthen the role of women.”
  • “Libya congratulated Saudi Arabia on acceding to conventions and its continued efforts to promote and protect human rights.”
  • “Malaysia welcomed Saudi Arabia’s progress in promoting women’s rights.”
  • “Mauritania welcomed progress towards equality and justice… efforts to enable the participation of women at all levels.

Page 11:

  • “Pakistan welcomed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect and promote women’s and children’s rights.”
  • “Somalia welcomed the high priority given to human rights, the harmonization of sharia law and international human rights law and the advancement of women’s rights.”

Page 12:

  • “Sri Lanka welcomed the efforts to promote women’s participation in public life.”
  • “The State of Palestine noted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect and promote human rights, [and] praised its accession to several instruments.”
  • “Turkey commended the increased women’s empowerment.”

Mr. President, are these words a fair representation of human rights in Saudi Arabia?

No.

The truth is that there are zero women’s rights, zero religious rights, zero minority rights, zero human rights, in Saudi Arabia. The truth is that Saudi Arabia has an entrenched system of gender apartheid. The truth is that Saudi Arabia should never have been elected as a member of this Council.

Unless the words I have just quoted above are retracted, we urge the Council to reject this report.

Thank you, Mr. President.

On strike: Israel asks UN to delay report

MFA strike

Israel is asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to delay next week’s scheduled adoption of a report on the country’s human rights record because its diplomats are on strike and have suspended all contacts with the UN.

UN Watch has obtained a copy of the letter sent yesterday by Israeli ambassador Eviatar Manor to UNHRC president Baudelaire Ndong Ella:

“Dear Mr. President,  I regret to inform you that the labor dispute involving the staff of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and its Diplomatic Representations continues.”

“As a consequence of the labor dispute, and as communicated to all International Organizations and Missions in Geneva in a Note Verbale on 5 March 2014, all contacts by the Permanent Mission of Israel with the UN, other International Organizations and Permanent Missions are suspended until further notice.”

“The right to resort to labor action including the right to strike is a basic human right and should be respected by both our colleagues and international civil servants.”

“In light of the above mentioned and in order to proceed and fully complete the process of Israel’s UPR in a spirit of cooperation, I request a postponement of the adoption of Israel’s UPR Report to a later date. I will inform you as soon as possible of our resumption of normal work.”

Democracies kept silent as Lui Xiaobo remains in prison

On Tuesday, October 22, when China’s human rights record was reviewed by the UN, sadly, none of the democracies spoke out for imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate Lui Xiaobo, who remains in prison since 2008, solely on his political views.  Only one country –Canada– spoke out against China’s imprisonment of political dissidents and recommended China to release all political prisoners.

Amidst the wide praise of China’s record, it is disappointing that the name of Lui Xiaobo was not mentioned during the three and a half hour session. Lui Xiaobo, a professor and human rights activist, has called for political reform and an end to single-party rule. Democracies wasted a unique opportunity to put a spotlight on China’s oppression of dissent and make concrete recommendations that could have an impact.

China presented a 30-page report on its human rights record, which was followed by a three-hour “interactive dialogue,” with over 130 delegations making statements and Chinese delegates periodically responding. The exercise is known as the “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR), which examines every UN member state once every four and a half years.

Front groups set tone for tomorrow’s UN review of China’s rights record

Cuba, Venezuela, Sri Lanka support phony Chinese NGO event

GENEVA, Oct. 21, 2013 – On the eve of the UN Human Rights Council’s review of China’s human rights record, a panel was held today at UNHRC headquarters by Chinese “non-governmental” organizations, who showered China with praise for its supposed civil society progress.

It has become commonplace at the United Nations for authoritarian governments to accredit front groups as NGOs, who then take the floor or organize side to influence UN debates on the country concerned. They are known as phony NGOs, or “GONGOs” — government-run NGOs.

Today’s phony NGO panel  was organized by “China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE),” a UN-accredited NGO.

They were joined by the “China Association for NPO (non-profit organizations),” the “Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Hebei Province,” and the “China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture and China Ethnic Minorities Association for External Exchanges.”

Panelists spoke of the “booming and changing” development of NGOs in China, claiming there are 506,000 social organizations and one to three million grass-roots NGOs active in China today. These promote economic development by focusing on education, social service, agriculture, ecological environment, law and religion, it was said. These organizations exercise autonomy as long as they work in accordance with the law and that the functions of the government are separated from those of social organizations.

At the end of the presentation, as if on cue, diplomats from Cuba, Venezuela and Sri Lanka – major allies of the Chinese regime — took the floor to praised the Chinese GONGOs for their active civil society. Cuba reaffirmed the importance of having such a genuine dialogue about civil society in China, and commended the government and people of China for all that has been done in the field of human rights.

UN Human Rights Council to Discuss Israel’s “Non-Cooperation”

Minutes of the UN Human Rights Council Bureau meeting
15 May 2013
On 15 May 2013, the Bureau held a meeting and discussed the following:  […]
Non-cooperation with UPR
The President informed the Bureau that in line with the Council’s decision of 29 January 2013 on 14 May 2013 he sent a letter to the Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN in Geneva, Amb. E. Manor, reiterating his appeal to Israel, the State under Review, to resume its cooperation with the UPR mechanism.   He further informed the Bureau of his intention to report to the Council on this issue during the general debate on Item 6 at the upcoming 23 session of the Council (currently scheduled for 7 June).

How Cuba Hijacked the UN Review of its Rights Record

Today the UN reviewed Cuba’s human rights record. But it tainted the process through fraud. A new report by UN Watch: How Cuba Hijacked its UPR.

Pakistan’s UPR: “With a little help from my friends”

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is often demonstrated as one of the Human Rights Council’s success stories. Indeed, it can have an impact when countries want to listen, learn from the peers and improve their human rights record. However, where this process fails is with the worse abusers. As we have showed in a 100-page report, the UPR regularly becomes a “Mutual Praise Society.” In January, the UAE celebrated its human rights record long before the review started. Similarly, last week Pakistan rallied its friends to defend its record and monopolize the discussion, a déjà-vu from its initial review. The list of speakers and their statements are revealing (the UK was the only Western country to take the floor).

Indonesia: Indonesia, in particular, welcomes the government’s various legal, institutional, and administrative initiatives on the advancement of women.

Iran: The Islamic Republic of Iran commends the active participation of Pakistan in the UPR process and acknowledges its constructive engagement with the Council by accepting many recommendations made to it.

Continue reading ‘Pakistan’s UPR: “With a little help from my friends”’

Qatari First Lady attacks Israel when speaking on Education

On Friday, March 1, 2013, the Human Rights Council held a “High-Level Panel on Human Rights Mainstreaming.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered opening remarks.

UN Photo: "Secretary-General Meets Qatari First Lady and MDG Advocate," Geneva, March 1, 2013

One of the keynote speakers was Sheika Moza bint Nazer, Consort of the Emir of the State of Qatar, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education. In a panel that was meant to discuss education and MDGs, she used the opportunity to make politicized and biased arguments against Israel.

In the beginning of her speech, refering to Israel’s no show at the UPR, she argued:

We must not allow the legitimacy of the Human Rights Council to be jeopardized by one country. I urge council to use all appropriate measures to ensure that this review continues to be an equal process.

Further on, the only example she offered when discussing education during conflict was Gaza:

It is unacceptable that education continues to be a victim of conflict. Take the example of Gaza, where the impact of the blockage continues to have a crippling effect, especially on education. Schools have been damaged. Supplies, from chairs to textbooks and pencils, cannot get in.

Since 2009, the Al Fakhoora program has been working with UNDP to enable young people to pursue higher education. Helping to reconstruct buildings. Providing psycho-social support

It is seeking to address some of the damage caused by same country that is trying now to escape scrutiny of its human rights record through the Universal Periodic Review.

It is morally wrong and sad when people misuse the UN podium and UN titles, both meant to address universal issues, in repeating short-sighted political arguments of their national governments.

UPR: Dictators condemn Israel for not allowing them to condemn Israel

The UN Human Rights Council adopted yet another resolution on Israel, “regretting” that the Jewish state skipped a mandated review of its human rights record, and accusing it of “non-cooperation.”

Israel’s 2012 decision to sever all ties with the the UNHRC, which maintains a permanent agenda item exclusively on Israel at every one of its sessions, meant that it would also miss its scheduled Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process that examines all 193 countries for one day every four to five years.

The one chosen earlier this month, by a draw of lots, to be one of three overseers of Israel’s review was newly elected member Venezuela, the Iranian-allied dictatorship of Hugo Chavez. A jury of brigands is not justice, it’s a travesty.

A chorus of reflexively UN-apologetic voices have lashed out at Israel’s decision to skip the UPR, accusing the Jewish state of wreaking apocalyptic damage upon a supposedly precious world institution.

In reality, the UPR is — for the most part — a mutual praise society.

Though the New York Times today praised the UPR’s “universal and collaborative characteristics,” saying it provided “a platform to scrutinize and discuss the situation of human rights in even the most closed and repressive regimes,” it apparently forgot that earlier it had reported on how Qaddafi’s Libyan regime came out of its review with top marks:

Until Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s violent suppression of unrest in recent weeks, the United Nations Human Rights Council was kind in its judgment of Libya. In January, it produced a draft report on the country that reads like an international roll call of fulsome praise, when not delicately suggesting improvements. Evidently, within the 47-nation council, some pots are loath to call kettles black, at least until events force their hand.

Former Amnesty USA director Suzanne Nossel called the report “abhorrent.” Continue reading ‘UPR: Dictators condemn Israel for not allowing them to condemn Israel’

‘Mutual Praise Society’ case study

Celebrating UAE's improved human rights record

The Universal Periodic Review process has been recently hailed as “the most important instrument for the protection of human rights” because of its integral focus on cooperation. This commitment to universal cooperation, however, has fostered idealistic presentations of human rights records and country feedback based on partisan divides. The flawed process is best epitomized by yesterday’s UPR of the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates boasts a strong record of human rights abuses: the continued disempowerment of women, forceful bans on freedom of expression, and a broken judicial system targeting their government critics and civil liberties defenders. Following calls by three NGOs  for greater democracy within the UAE, the country responded by disbanding the organizations’ boards.

Even so, the UAE was calmly at ease before their UPR hearing, audaciously using the media to highlight the supposed new safeguards for their disempowered citizens. Press articles promised that the UPR will highlight UAE’s “impressive human rights record.” Continue reading ‘‘Mutual Praise Society’ case study’

U.N. Rights Council Sings Sri Lanka’s Praises

The U.N. Human Rights Council just examined Sri Lanka’s human rights record as part of its periodic review of all countries.

While Canada notably asked genuine and specific questions, consistent with the purpose of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism to scrutinize governments and improve the lives of victims, as did New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, many others took the floor solely to praise.

See for example from the U.N. summary:

  • China congratulated Sri Lanka for its “socio-economic developments and national reconciliation, its establishment of national human rights instruments and its progress in resettling IDPs and combating poverty.”
  • Iran “commended Sri Lanka for considerable achievements in restoration of civil administration, infrastructure and economic development in the north and east of Sri Lanka affected by the internal conflict.”
  • Spain applauded “progress made in promoting and protecting human rights.” Continue reading ‘U.N. Rights Council Sings Sri Lanka’s Praises’

U.N. Review Praises Pakistan’s Rights Record

This week the U.N. Human Rights Council examined, as part of its periodic review of all countries,  the human rights situations in two countries with highly questionable records, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Both attracted the greatest interest of the session, with 99 states wanting to speak on Sri Lanka and 89 for Pakistan. Friends and foes alike took the floor.

On Pakistan, several countries — including the United States, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia and Canada — rightly pointed out ongoing violations concerning women’s rights, minority rights and blasphemy laws.

Amazingly, however, while the purpose of the “Universal Periodic Review” mechanism is to scrutinize governments in order to improve the lives of victims, many of the others took the floor solely to praise Pakistan. From the U.N. summary:

Venezuela rigs U.N. speakers list to ensure stellar review of rights record

Today Venezuela’s UPR report is scheduled to be adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council at 3 pm Geneva time. Each review lasts one hour, during which state representatives have 20 minutes to discuss the report, accept or reject its recommendations, and respond to any questions from the floor.

The other 40 minutes are divided equally between states and NGOs, each getting two minutes to speak. That means a maximum of 10 states and 10 NGOs can take the floor.

As reported, the list of speakers is as follows:

Countries

1. Cuba
2. Nicaragua
3. Vietnam
4. China
5. Uruguay
6. Dominican Republic
7. Iran
8. North Korea
9. Syria
10. Myanmar [List of states to be cut here due to time  limit]
11. Ecuador
12. Laos
13. Philippines
14. Zimbabwe
15. Russia
16. Morocco
17. Sri Lanka
18. U.S.A.
19. India
20. Belarus
21. Paraguay

NGOs

1. Defensora del Pueblo Gabriela Ramirez
2. Indian Council of South America
3. Cuban Women Federation
4. Word Federation of Trade Unions
5. Cuban Association for the United Nations
6. North-South XXI
7. Organización International de aportación de voluntarios para mujeres, educación y desarrollo (VIDES)
8. Association for the Prevention of Torture
9. Human Rights Watch
10. Article 19  [List of states to be cut here due to time  limit]
11. CIVICUS
12. Instituto internacional de Maria Auxiliadora (IIMA)
13. United Nations Watch (UN Watch)
14. Save the Children
15. Amnesty International
16. Encuentro africano por la defensa de los derechos humanos

What is clear from the above is that the Venezuelan government, aided no doubt by the experienced Cuban diplomats,  rallied their close friends — governments and phony NGOs  (known as “GONGOs”, or Government-operated NGOs) — to monopolize the limited time of the debate.

For example, there are several pro-Castro NGOs on the list as well as the North-South XXI group, which was created by the Qaddafi regime. We shall be lucky to hear even six minutes of genuine scrutiny of the Chavez regime’s violations of human rights.

Cuba Organizing Rogue Speakers’ List of Hardliners in Bid to Ambush U.S. at Friday’s U.N. Review

UN Watch Backgrounder on U.N.’s 1st UPR Review of America’s Human Rights Record

The U.S. is trying to stop the Cuban delegation from organizing the list of countries at the Human Rights Council that will review America’s human rights record on Friday.

“We are concerned that Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and other non-democracies are planning to hijack the session to score propaganda points and drum up anti-American sentiment worldwide,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental monitoring group. “We applaud the U.S. for setting a model for openness in its approach to the UN review, and it’s tragic that many states are seeking to misuse and politicize the process.”

Diplomats in Geneva report that Cuba took the lead last week in circulating an advance sign-up sheet so that critics of Washington dominate the two hours reserved for country statements on America’s record. The list was challenged last week at the Human Rights Council chamber but diplomats confirm it is still valid.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast announced this week that Tehran will take the floor to slam the US for alleged violations.

In previous reviews, country delegates have lined up all night to obtain one of the limited speaking slots.

UN Watch research, “Mutual Praise Society” of 2009, shows that the UN process which will review the U.S. record has too often been misused.

Rights Group Calls UN Review of Iran ‘Insufficent'; Urges Emergency Session, Inquiry, and Permanent Monitor

GENEVA, February 15, 2010 -  Following Iran’s review today by the UN Human Rights Council (click here for summary and full transcript), Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch commended the U.S., France and other democracies for their “forceful criticism” of Iran’s abuses, but expressed alarm over a report by Le Monde that Asian countries might facilitate Iran’s election this May to the 47-member body, “an eventuality underscored by the litany of speeches today — by China, Cuba, Libya and others — falsely praising Iran.”

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer welcomed the statements made today on behalf of Iranian rights victims, but cautioned that the outcome of today’s UN procedure is limited to a “toothless” report to be adopted on Wednesday.

“There are recognized and significant ways for the UN Human Rights Council to place a country on its watchlist of abusers, but this week’s procedure, which all states undergo automatically every four years, is not one of them,” said Neuer.

“If the Human Rights Council is serious about tackling Iran’s wide-scale and escalating attacks on its own citizens — and this an open question — then it must use its available tools to convene an emergency session; adopt a resolution condemning the violations and establishing an international inquiry into Iran’s post-election arrests, rapes, show-trials and exections; and reinstate the permanent post of a Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the Iranian government’s compliance with international human right covenants.” Continue reading ‘Rights Group Calls UN Review of Iran ‘Insufficent'; Urges Emergency Session, Inquiry, and Permanent Monitor’

Democracies slam Iran abuses at UN review, others offer praise

Iran’s record was reviewed today by the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, under its quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure. Click here for UN Watch’s full transcript of the debate, or see summary below. The video webcast archive will be available here.

Iran’s delegation was headed by Mohammad Javad Ardashir Larijani, Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, who used the N-word to describe President Obama in a recent speech to the Islamic Engineers Society in Tehran. He mentioned to the UN today that his brother is Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani.

Continue reading ‘Democracies slam Iran abuses at UN review, others offer praise’

North Korea defiant amid harsh UN criticism

On December 7, North Korea underwent the Universal Period Review (UPR), a process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years.  North Korea has become a country of special interest for the UPR process because of several reports submitted to the UN concerning the country’s grave human rights violations, including torture, forced labor camps, public execution, and violence against children and women. 

During the three hour review process, North Korea denied the existence of all human rights violations, despite Western state concerns of North Korea’s current human rights situation.  North Korea claimed the concerns were the result of bias and “unfair resolutions” regarding their country, which are discussed every year at the Human Rights Council. Several delegations spoke in support of the North Korean government. Continue reading ‘North Korea defiant amid harsh UN criticism’

Islamic and African States Fail to Block UN Webcast of Human Rights Hearings

Bahrain First to Undergo “Seriously Flawed” Review Procedure

Geneva, April 7, 2008 — Facing opposition by Arab, Islamic and African states, the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to webcast its review of Bahrain, the first to undergo a new procedure that will scrutinize all UN members, constituted a small victory for reform, UN Watch said today.

“The new system of universal periodic review has serious institutional flaws, including its grant of excessive control over the outcome to the state under review,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization.

“Although the official verdicts are likely to be questionable at best, the very fact of holding debates on countries that were previously given a free pass, even if only once every four years, helps activists to shine an international spotlight on human rights violations, and to challenge government responses that are inadequate or false.”

Today’s three-hour session on Bahrain offered little in the way of scrutiny, and was dominated by praise of the gulf state’s record. In his presentation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar Al Baharna told the council that Bahrain respected women’s rights, equality and freedom of expression. Of the more than 30 states that then took the floor, most were fellow Islamic nations that complimented Bahrain’s record on “social and economic rights,” with Pakistan citing the growth of its GDP.

“We are deeply disappointed that the session summarily ignored the detailed NGO submissions, which presented evidence of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, torture, and violations of women’s rights,” said Neuer. “Although the U.S., Canada, France and a handful of Western democracies posed questions, their interventions were overly cautious and diplomatic, and did little to make this new procedure into one of real scrutiny. Human rights victims deserve far better.”

On Friday, the Arab, Islamic and African blocs made a last-ditch effort to block UN webcasting of the session, but their attempt failed. Click here to read set of demands.

“After a series of major setbacks at the council—including the outrageous insertion of anti-blasphemy provisions into the freedom of expression mandate—this is one small victory that human rights activists must cherish,” said Neuer.

Don’t webcast review of countries, Islamic states tell UN

The Arab, Islamic and African blocs demanded that the UN Human Rights Council cancel its plans to webcast its review of countries’ human rights records.

“As per the existing practice of the Council and the Commission on Human Rights,” they wrote in an April 3, 2008 set of demands circulated today, “only the Plenary meetings are webcast. There should be no exception. The Institution-Building text [the June 2007 rules] does not provide for webcasting of the Working Group proceedings.”