Thursday, March 31, 2005

Human Rights and how they are monitored

Well, for a start there is the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, from which all others descend. The Commission is meeting in Geneva, as I write.

It has 53 members. The independent campaigning group Freedom House has produced a report in which they categorize its members. According to this, and according to everyone who has looked at the situation, six of the most oppressive regimes have representatives on the Commission. They are: China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Then let us look at some of the other members. Freedom House also identifies other members that can be classified as “not free”, among them: Bhutan, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Swaziland and Togo.

What of Congo, Burkina Faso and Nigeria? Do they count as free countries? I have serious reservations about Gabon or Romania but they are there on the Commission and when they are replaced it will be by countries whose record is not that dissimilar.

Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House’s executive director, expressed herself forcibly:
"Rather than serving as the proper international forum for identifying and publicly censuring the world's most egregious human rights violators, the (commission) instead protects abusers, enabling them to sit in judgment on democratic states that honour and respect the rule of law."
Oh yes, the SecGen, Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) said something about reforming the rather ludicrous institution but how is he going to do it? After all, the Commission must have an adequate number of representatives from each region, regardless whether there are any even remotely free countries there.

In an organization, supposedly founded on the basis of clearly understood principles of freedom, democracy and human rights, but in which every country whether it obeys or even understands those principles is regarded as equal, no true reform is possible.