Saturday, April 9, 2022

Question: Will Russia's removal from the UN Human Rights Council begin a moral renewal of the international body? Answer: Yes, if Cuba is next.

 The UN Human Rights Council failure is a symptom of wider rot in the United Nations, and in Western Democracies more broadly.

The UN Human Rights system's mechanisms have failed to provide an accurate assessment of the dismal human rights situation in Cuba.  Nor is there any mention of the Cuban government's involvement in gross and systematic human rights violations in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The final outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba was discussed and adopted on September 20, 2018 at the 39th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Cuban human rights defender Sirley Avila Leon, a victim of repression, on September 24, 2018 addressed the UN Human Rights Council four days later on what agents of the Cuban government had done to her.

“On May 24, 2015 living in Cuba I suffered an attack orchestrated by agents of the state, I was attacked with a machete to kill me cutting off my left hand and right shoulder while I covered my head with them, then cut my knees leaving me disabled for life, This was not the first attack I suffered, I was previously attacked several times, physically and verbally by the political police in Cuba: they burned my bed, I suffered arbitrary arrests, death threats, economic damages.  Only for demanding better living conditions for the peasants and their children in a rural area of ​​Las Tunas. My case is not isolated. In Cuba, the state continues to violate the human rights of Cubans, murders, imprisons and banishes those who demand rights and repress their families. To save my life, in 2016 I escaped from Cuba, since then my son, Yoerlis Peña Avila, has been threatened with death and repressed on several occasions. At this moment I fear for his life.”

UN experts continued to whitewash and cover up the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Venezuela.  On February 28, 2019 UN Watch's Hillel Neuer exposed the right to food expert's cover up of the famine in Venezuela.

In  the 1930s in Ukraine "journalist" Walter Duranty helped to cover up the deaths of millions in a famine manufactured by Josef Stalin's regime. That UN Human Rights experts are helping to cover up a famine in Venezuela in the present gave warning to future developments, and the failure of this institution.

Did these outrages change anything the next time Venezuela or Cuba were to be voted onto the UN Human Rights Council in 2019 and 2020 respectively? The short answer is no, but the longer response is even more devastating.

China, Cuba, and Russia elected to the UNHRC in 2020. Venezuela was already a member

In 2020, Cuba got 170 votes out of 192 possible.Twenty two countries did not vote in favor of the Castro regime, but there are 27 member countries of the European Union. One can also count the United States among the votes against. This means that most probably [at least] six members of the European Union voted in favor of the Castro regime," and that runs counter to the shared values of the European Union which include ‘respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.’ Those democracies that voted for a 63 year old communist dictatorship that systematically violates human rights and seeks to undermine international human rights standards, did not live up to those principles.

In addition to Cuba, China and Russia were also elected to the UN Human Rights Council in 2020, and Venezuela had already been a member for a year having been easily re-elected to the Council in 2019.  

On April 7, 2022 the Russian Federation was expelled from the UN Human Rights Council by a full vote of the UN General Assembly. “Today should be a turning point. EU states and others that often defend the election of gross abusers as somehow a good thing have now effectively abandoned that position in favor of a principled approach, more consistent with the rights council’s own membership criteria,” said Hillel Neuer, of UNWatch, who had campaigned for years for Russia's removal.

The next time that Cuba will be subjected to a universal periodic review is in 2023. The last examination did not reflect the human rights situation on the island. The Cuban government corrupted and abused the process turning it into a circus. Havana had flooded the compilation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with front groups celebrating the dictatorship's "human rights achievements" and drowning out the reports by legitimate NGOs. 

Hopefully, the expulsion of Russia will mark a new chapter for the UN Human Rights Council and a time for reflection. “The 158 UN member states who two years ago voted to make Putin a world judge on human rights—and the others who stood by silently—should ask forgiveness from the Ukrainian men, women and children who are now paying the price of Russia’s brutal invasion of their country, in Bucha and elsewhere,” said Neuer.

Now is the time to clean up the dysfunctional UN Human Rights Council, and remove the worse human rights abusers, so that it can carry out its duties at this critical time. This would also symbolize a moral renewal of the United Nations to face the critical challenges to peace that are unfolding on the world stage today.

Vladimir Putin's Russia was first, let the communist dictatorship of Cuba be next to be voted off the UN Human Rights Council. May Cuba's 2023 Universal Periodic Review hold the dictatorship accountable for the atrocities committed between 2018 and 2022.

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