The United Nations has done many valuable things in its 70-year history, but terrible mistakes have been committed, too. One recalls the failure of Dutch peacekeepers to prevent the massacre at Srebrenica, and the peacekeepers from Nepal who, sent to Haiti to bring relief after 2010’s earthquake disaster, brought cholera.
But for humdrum, routine, jaw-dropping abuse, the UN Human Rights Council takes some beating. And with the probable re-election to its ranks today of the United Arab Emirates, the cynical hijacking of a body established to protect the innocent and helpless will continue.
The abuse of human rights that are taken for granted in the developed world is routine in the UAE. Migrant workers, a large majority of the population, toil in slave-like conditions. Laws on drug abuse are draconian: last year a student from Reading, Ahmad Zeidan, was sentenced to nine years in jail for possession of a tiny quantity of cocaine. And then there is the question of sexual misconduct. Hundreds of rape victims are imprisoned every year in the UAE – judged guilty of having sex outside marriage.
If a female rape victim is deemed to be guilty of illicit sex in the UAE, why is this rule not also applied to the rapist? Is it merely because he is a) a man b) a citizen of the country where the rape takes place, and c) a person of means? And if those are the criteria – how can a state with such perverse, debased values have any role on an eminent council set up to protect human rights?
In 2006, the UN’s Human Rights Commission was scrapped for being morally corrupted in just this fashion, and replaced by the present Council. But less than 10 years on, the same thing is happening again. The UK Government’s recent, outrageous role in getting Saudi Arabia elected to the Council has been widely reported.
Now the UAE will join the Saudis and other shocking regimes on the Council, including Burundi, Venezuela, Kyrgyzstan and Ethiopia, all of which have been widely criticised for human rights abuse. They should find the company congenial.
It is like hiring the Mafia to prosecute the war on drugs. But it is well beyond a joke. Further reform is urgent, and imperative.