At the same time the worse human rights violators continued to be elected to the Human Rights Council. Consider for a moment that in 2004, in the old UN Human Rights Commission, after losing a vote, a young Cuban diplomat physically assaulted a 60 year old man - who was part of the American delegation - attacking him from behind in front of numerous eyewitnesses. Despite this the Cuban dictatorship was elected as a member on the new UN Human Rights Council.
There are consequences to giving the worse human rights violators free reign. Human rights and democracy have been in retreat worldwide for the past decade coinciding with the tenure of the new United Nations Human Rights Council. Between 2006 and 2016 there has been a steady decline in global liberty and human rights.
The big claim to fame of the new Council was the Universal Periodic Review which provided oversight to all countries once every four years. The Universal Periodic Review has one feature that is a threat to dictatorships and that is that anyone who produces a report can submit it for consideration to the Office of the High Commissioner and free Cubans in the island did just that to try to break through the communist regime's information monopoly.
UN Watch in their report "Massive Fraud: The Corruption of the 2013 UPR Review of Cuba" exposed how the Cuban government has corrupted and abused the Universal Periodic Review process. One of the regime's tactics was to flood the NGO process with front groups to drown out critical reports. In its summary, UN Watch described how:
Cuba used hundreds of front groups to hijack the United Nations compilation of NGO submissions and turn it into a propaganda sheet for the Castro Communist regime. While critiques of genuine NGOs do appear, they are overwhelmed by an unprecedented amount of submissions by fraudulent “NGOs” that, if they do exist, are mere puppets of Cuba and its allies abroad. UN Watch examined 28 recent UPR country reviews. There were 9 NGO submissions on Turkmenistan, 12 on Romania, 23 on Germany, 32 on Russia, and, the highest, 48 on Canada. For Cuba, however, the number soars to an incredible 454.Unfortunately the communist regime in Cuba did not limit its assault on human rights to the island nation but has had a negative impact worldwide on human rights standards and for victims of repression including at the UN Human Rights Council.
- On March 28, 2008 the Castro regime’s delegation together with the Organization of Islamic Congress (OIC) successfully passed resolutions undermining international freedom of expression standards at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
- On February 2, 2009 during the Universal Periodic Review of China the Cuban Ambassador, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios encouraged the Chinese regime to repress human rights defenders in China with more firmness.
- On May 28, 2009 amidst a human rights crisis in Sri Lanka the Cuban government's diplomats took the lead and successfully blocked efforts to address the wholesale slaughter there and in 2011 opposed efforts to reopen the case.
- On August 23, 2011 the Cuban government along with China, Russia and Ecuador voted against investigating gross and systematic human rights violations in Syria.
- On March 17, 2014 the UN Human Rights Council “was divided” in its discussion of the atrocities in North Korea between those who want the case to be elevated to the International Criminal Court and those who reject outright the existence of a commission of inquiry and conclusions. The Castro regime vigorously defended the North Korean regime and denounced the inquiry.
- On March 21, 2014 at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Castro dictatorship again applauded the human rights record of the People's Republic of China, and voted to block the effort of human rights defenders to hold a moment of silence for Cao Shunli. She was an activist who had tried to participate in China’s Universal Periodic Review, but was detained at the airport trying to get on a flight to attend the current session and accused of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." Within three months in detention and being denied medical care Cao Shunli died on March 14, 2014.
The end result is that the Castro regime, along with other systematic human rights violators, have made a mockery of the United Nations Human Rights Council. During Cuba's first Universal Periodic Review in 2009 a Castro regime diplomat in the UN Human Rights Council twice threatened to beat me down if I crossed an imaginary line that he had set. A formal complaint was lodged at the time and nothing came of it. In 2014 while addressing the horrific human rights situations in Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela the worse of the worse tried through points of order to shut down the two minutes I had to speak.
Now on the tenth anniversary of the UN Human Rights Council, a member of the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) received a death threat electronically from a "diplomat" working for the Russian Federation. Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy for HRHF on March 24, 2016 received a graphic image with an accompanying written threat against his life over twitter. The account was traced to a Russian diplomat.
|Regime agents regularly beat up Cuban women and UNSG celebrates their treatment of women|
Cuba is a leader on many development issues, including expanding opportunity for women and girls. It has battled stereotypes and worked through its institutions to advance equality and prevent and end all forms of violence. [...] Since this threat is rooted in discrimination, impunity and complacency, we need to change attitudes and behavior – and we need to change laws and make sure they are enforced just like you are doing in Cuba.The Secretary General ignored the well documented regular beatings visited on Cuban women who dissent from the official government line such as the Ladies in White and the Rosa Parks Women's Movement. On July 9, 2013 two dissident Cuban attorneys, Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent presented their report to Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as it examined Cuba, that touched on the institutional violence against women:
The brutality of the police and state security agents, including women members of these bodies, against women dissidents, is supported by the state, which exemplifies the institutionalized violence as a means to repress women opposition activists. Arbitrary detention is one of the methods to prevent them from exercising their rights to speak, associate and demonstrate. In detention centers agents use violence, sexual assault and insults as means of repression. The cells enclosed in unsanitary and sometimes sanitary services have no privacy or are not appropriate for women, even having them share prison cells with men. In some cases, they forced to strip naked or forcibly stripped, obliging them to squat to see if they have items in their genitals and claims that have been reported that they have introduced a pen into the vagina, under the justification of seeking recording objects.At the time Amnesty International condemned an ongoing crackdown against nonviolent activists, including many women, by the Cuban government and called on the UN Secretary General and other dignitaries to address it:
It is outrageous that those who disagree with the Cuban government are not allowed to express themselves in a public and collective manner. The heads of state of the CELAC member countries and the high officials of regional and international organizations, such as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, should not ignore the fact that as they arrive in Havana to participate in the summit, Cuban activists are being repressed by their government.Instead UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon failed to address the crackdown publicly but instead met with Raul Castro to discuss in part how the US embargo impacts on human rights in Cuba and later his daughter, Mariela, where he celebrated the regime's treatment of women and finally met with Fidel Castro for 55 minutes.
|UN Secretary General in Havana, Cuba with murderous tyrants in 2014|
In March of 2009, addressing the opening of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy the shortcomings of the UN Human Rights Council were outlined and remain relevant today.
Regrettably, the chief international body charged with protecting human rights is failing to live up to its mission to stop these and other abuses. The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council—as acknowledged in a recent report by 17 of its 47 member states, supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists—falls short in its handling of country situations, in the efficiency of the process involved in highlighting violations, and in its reactivity to crisis situations. Strong politicization of the Council, driven by bloc-based voting patterns, has led to inaction in face of atrocity and abuse. We saw this sad spectacle last week within the Council, first with the secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights denying the documented and rampant instances of torture, executions, and mass detentions of Iranians followed by the Cuban Foreign Minister’s speech who echoing his Iranian colleague also denied Cuba’s horrible human rights record and to add insult to injury went on to blame the United States for the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo as well as slander the deceased Cuban prisoner of conscience as a criminal.If UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon wants the UN Human Rights Council to have a bigger impact then he should lead by example and not remain silent in the face of glaring injustices. As Katrina Lantos Swett citing Adlai Stevenson in reference to the UN Human Rights Council observed: "Solutions begin by telling the truth." Many do not take the UN Human Rights Council seriously not only due it lacks of an enforcement mechanism, but also because it is not telling the truth preferring all too often to remain silent. Truth telling is important and powerful. The failure on too many occasions of the UN Human Rights Council and UN officials to speak truth to power is why they now risk irrelevance.