Saturday, December 9, 2017

Call for UN officials to reflect on their obligations on International Human Rights Day

“It was never the people who complained of the universality of human rights, nor did the people consider human rights as a Western or Northern imposition. It was often their leaders who did so.”
Mr. Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General

On Sunday, December 10, 2017 the United Nations will begin a year long effort to honor and celebrate the 70th anniversary in 2018 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein recognizes that “we should be under no illusions: the legacy of the Universal Declaration is facing threats on many fronts.”

Unfortunately one of those fronts is the United Nations itself.

Three times in 2016 the United Nations honored an enemy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when the international body on December 1, 2016 at the United Nations General Assembly held a moment of silence for Fidel Castro in New York City. Five days later on December 6, 2016 at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland another moment of silence was held for Fidel Castro ignoring the dictator's terrible human rights record. Two weeks later on December 20, 2016 the General Assembly of the United Nations once again paid tribute to the dead Cuban tyrant. Paying homage to this murderous dictator multiple times undermines a central pillar of the United Nations and that is the defense of human rights.

Since 1959, Cuba has under the Castro brothers been subjected to a Marxist Leninist dictatorship that does not recognize international human rights standards as outlined in the declaration the UN wishes to honor over the course of 2018. Fidel Castro in a 1986 interview addressed the matter:
"Bourgeois liberties, no. We have two different concepts of freedom. Europeans have one, we have another.  Capitalism and socialism are not at all alike. Your political concepts of liberty, equality, justice are very different from ours. You try to measure a country like Cuba with European ideas. And we do not resign ourselves to or accept being measured by those standards."
The claim by Mr. Castro that bourgeois liberties are alien to the Cuban experience because they emerged in Europe is not correct. The synthesis of civil-political and socioeconomic rights found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Europeans subscribe to  emerged out of the Latin American experience. Furthermore, it was Latin American diplomats that pushed hard for a human rights charter following World War II and the first international human rights charter was a regional one The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man that was adopted in Bogota, Colombia on May 2, 1948.

Banned in Cuba as enemy propaganda
The Castro regime has banned and censored the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Cuba, presented copies of the declaration in criminal cases against nonviolent dissidents, and internationally has sought to undermine international human rights standards. This has led to the gutting of international human rights standards and hobbled independent UN officials with a Code of Conduct in 2007 that provides leverage to outlaw regimes on 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.

This led to the spectacle in July of 2017 of  Virginia B. Dandan, the United Nations "independent" expert on human rights and international solidarity who visited Cuba, a totalitarian dictatorship, and at a press conference when asked if she would meet or consult with the democratic opposition stated: "I do not know what you mean by opposition. I honestly do not know who is in the opposition." 

There have been members of the democratic opposition who have achieved international recognition. For example Cuban democratic opposition leader Oswaldo Payá received the Sakharov Prize in 2002 and addressed members of the the European Parliament on December 17, 2002 presenting his nonviolent vision for change.
The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: “You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.” This is the liberation which we are proclaiming.
Oswaldo was killed, along with Harold Cepero, on July 22, 2012 in what appears to have been an extrajudicial killing organized by state security. 

Oswaldo's successor, Eduardo Cardet, was arrested on November 30, 2016 for offering a critical assessment of Fidel Castro's legacy.  Lamentably Ms. Dandan did not know of his existence despite Mr. Cardet being an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. 

This led an opposition publication to publish an oped titled: "Virginia Dandan, the expert who does not ask questions."

In November of 2017 the visit of Alfred de Zayas, the UN "expert on promotion of a democratic and equitable international order” to Venezuela was questioned by UN Watch because of his track record of  overt support for the Chavista regime in Venezuela and Castro regime in Cuba. UN Watch observed that "after 15 years of [Venezuela] rejecting repeated requests by separate monitors on arbitrary detention, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, independence of the judiciary and arbitrary executions." 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is right when he says that:“[w]e must organize and mobilize in defence of human decency, in defence of a better common future… We must take a robust and determined stand: by resolutely supporting the human rights of others, we also stand up for our own rights and those of generations to come.” 

Unfortunately, sending experts who will look the other way or only repeat regime talking points falls far short of defending human dignity and decency. Nor does honoring tyrants and dictators.

Sadly, the United Nations paid homage in December 2016 on three occasions to a dictator who spent a lifetime undermining the human rights of others. Cuban human rights defenders were imprisoned for offering a critical assessment of Fidel Castro's rule in Cuba while the UN stood in silence to honor the systematic human rights violator

UN officials should engage in a serious and "profound reflection" on their actions to ensure that they do not continue undermining their own mission. 

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