Tuesday, December 6, 2016

UN Human Rights Council's moment of silence for Fidel Castro

"...[T]here arises a question as to whether those large, serious compromises do not have their origin and roots in precisely these tiny and very often more or less logical compromises." - Vaclav Havel, October 12, 2009, Forum 2000 conference

Photo taken by Cuban Mission to the UN during moment of silence for Castro
Six months ago I wrote a blog post on the existential crisis at the United Nations Human Rights Council that began from the start. "Ten years ago the United Nations Human Rights Council was founded on a small moral compromise that sacrificed human rights oversight in Belarus and Cuba in what U.N. officials called the dawn of a new era. Special rapporteurs with mandates to specifically monitor the human rights situation in those two countries were formally gotten rid of in 2007 and a code of conduct established that undermined the independence of all special rapporteurs."

Reflecting deeper on this crisis came to the conclusion that at the heart of the deteriorating global human rights situation that has gripped humanity for more than a decade is worse than we thought because it goes beyond geopolitical circumstance and to first principles on the nature of human rights that those in positions of power have rejected. Yesterday another manifestation of this crisis manifested itself in a matter of small procedural importance but of profound moral consequences.

On December 5, 2016 delegates of the U.N. Human Rights Council opened a meeting in Geneva by standing silently after Venezuela’s delegation requested a minute of silence to “honor” the late Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro. Meanwhile now in Cuba those Cubans that refuse to mourn the dead dictator are being beaten down, jailed and threatened with 15 year prison terms for speaking out. At least 20 cases have been documented and two high profile examples stand out: the graffiti artist and the medical doctor both jailed for freely expressing themselves: Danilo Maldonado and Eduardo Cardet.

Let us recall that Fidel Castro, the Cuban tyrant, presided over extrajudicial executions of thousands of his countrymen, the destruction of Cuba, twice called for a nuclear first strike on the United States, sponsored terrorism across the world, collaborated with genocidal dictators who murdered millions in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East

Even more outrageous is that while the human rights body honors one of the great human rights violators of the Americas at the same time it ignores a human rights champion who passed away four days later the great nonviolent democrat and human rights defender Luis Alberto Monge Álvarez, former president of Costa Rica and one of the drafters of that great democracy's constitution.

Cuban Americans went out into the streets of Miami to celebrate the departure of Fidel Castro because he was a man who had done much evil and was still capable, while lucid, to do more.

However those who do good in the world like Vaclav Havel and  Luis Alberto Monge Álvarez are sorely missed and we mourn for their absence because we need more human beings like them that lift up humanity defending human dignity while speaking truth to power.

It is a real shame to see that at the heart of what should be the most important human rights body on the planet this simple lesson has been lost due to political expediency and an apparent bankruptcy of fundamental values.

Let us hope that the world's democrats in that august body request a moment of silence for the victims of Castroism and perhaps a candlelight vigil should be held outside of the UNHRC with photos of the many victims of the Cuban dictatorship as was done on Sunday in Washington, DC.

They could also hold a moment of silence for Costa Rica's Luis Alberto Monge Álvarez and honor a moral exemplar instead of a dictator who collaborated with war criminals in genocide.

Honoring the memory of a brutal and genocidal dictator diminishes the moral authority of the UN Human Rights Council and in that it only benefits the brutal and genocidal regimes around the world leaving the victims ever more at their mercy. 

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