Economist: UN Human Rights Council “adrift on human rights”


Hi Blog. I post on this topic because (follow the daisy chain):

1) As the new UN Human Rights Council does, given Japan’s shabby record on following human rights treaties

2) so Japan will do when it comes to Japan’s aspirations for a UN Security Council Seat…

3) which is really the only ace in the hole for putting pressure on Japan to finally pass a law against racial discrimination…

4) which Japan lacks, yet promised to establish all the way back in 1996 when it effected the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

I’ve been wanting to present the indicative Otaru Onsens Case to the HRC for some years now, but bureaucratic snafus, and warnings from my activist friends that doing so would probably be a disappointment, have kept me at bay. Meanwhile, these articles from The Economist keep coming out and offering bad news about the meetings I’ve missed.

Would be nice to believe that human rights, from the organization which has established some of the most important conventions and treaties in history, still matter in this day when rules seem grey, and even the most powerful country in the world dismisses long-standing international agreements as “outmoded” and “quaint”…

Debito in Sapporo
(Referential Links follow the article)


The United Nations
Jan 10th 2007
(From, from link followed from article below)

Since its foundation in 1945 the United Nations has grown in remit and size. Its main job is keeping the peace, but its Security Council is forever hobbled by squabbling over membership and doubts about its legitimacy. When the UN acts, it often fails to provide its peacekeepers with adequate means. The organisation enjoys greater success raising living standards through its specialised agencies.

Kofi Annan, the UN’s secretary-general from 1997 to 2006, presided over an organisation accused of inefficiency and scandal and subject to constant attack from America’s legislators. George Bush opposed the UN’s plans for an international court and agreements on abortion and torture, and then invaded Iraq without its backing. Mr Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, may get on better with America—which would leave him with a host of other, institutional problems to face.




Human rights: Bad counsel
THE ECONOMIST Apr 4th 2007

“WE WANT a butterfly,” John Bolton, then America’s ambassador to the United Nations, said a year ago when explaining his country’s rejection of plans to replace the UN’s High Commission on Human Rights with a leaner and supposedly more credible Human Rights Council. “We don’t intend to put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success.” Mr Bolton, now in enforced retirement from the UN, may feel vindicated as the ludicrously painted creature creeps along, seemingly doomed never to metamorphose and take wing.

In its fourth regular session, which ended in Geneva on March 30th, the 47-member council again failed to address many egregious human-rights abuses around the world. Even in the case of Darfur, on which one of its own working groups had produced a damning report, it declined to criticise the Sudanese government directly for orchestrating the atrocities, limiting itself to an expression of “deep concern”. Indeed, in its nine months of life, the council has criticised only one country for human-rights violations, passing in its latest session its ninth resolution against Israel.

This obsession with bashing Israel and turning a blind eye to so much else has disappointed those who hoped that the new council might perform better than its predecessor. Now alarm is growing that its anti-Israel bias is going to be compounded by an excessive zeal to defend the good name of religions, and especially that of Islam, at the expense of free speech.

A new resolution, proposed by Pakistan, on the need to combat the “defamation of religions”, has drawn sharp criticism from watchdogs. Human Rights Watch pointed out that a focus on the protection of religions, rather than individuals, could be used to justify curbs upon free thought and conscience. Freedom House said the resolution was inimical to free speech and constituted “a perversion of the language and institutions hitherto used to protect human rights”.

The actual wording of most of the resolution is not in fact so objectionable. After voicing concern at “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human-rights violations”, it urges states to prohibit the dissemination of “racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement to racial and religious hatred, hostility or violence”. So far so good, perhaps. But it goes on to say that free expression should be exercised “with responsibility”, and may be limited in regard to “public health and morals”, and, worse still, “respect for religions and beliefs”.

There’s not much encouragement for future Voltaires in that. As a piece of advice on manners, the proposition that freedom of expression should be exercised responsibly may well be sound. As a principle on which to organise society, it is not. The right to free speech is not a right if it cannot be exercised irresponsibly and, so long as it does not promote violence, jinx trials, libel individuals without cause or, in rare circumstances, threaten national security, freely is how many feel it is best exercised. Mankind has long advanced in the slipstream of ruffled feathers: a society in which no one may cause offence is likely to moulder in unquestioning obedience to the rules of those in authority.

Of the 17 members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference on the council, all but one voted for the resolution, along with China, Russia and South Africa. Fourteen Western countries voted against, including all eight EU states, plus Japan, Ukraine and South Korea (home of the UN’s new secretary-general). Nine countries, all from the developing world, abstained.

A central task for the new council was supposed to be regular reviews of human rights in each of the UN’s 192 member states. But nine months since its founding, nothing has happened. A key test of whether the council would prove any better than its derided predecessor would be to get this “universal periodic review” under way, Louise Arbour, the UN’s respected High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Geneva meeting. The council has now given itself a year to establish such a mechanism.





(Note that Japan is now five years late on handing in its biennial report on human rights to the ICERD Committee…)

Washington Times on UN Diene visit, Ibuki, Gaijin Hanzai mag etc
Insular power poses unique issues on bias
Published March 9, 2007 Washington Times
By Takehiko Kambayashi

Japan Times: U.N. special rapporteur challenges Ibuki’s ‘homogenous’ claim
February 28, 2007

Transcript of Press Conference with United Nations Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene and Debito Arudou at Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan
Feb. 26th, 2007, 12:30 to 2PM

Endgame on GOJ push for UNSC seat?
Japan’s eyes still on UN seat
Asia Times January 3, 2007

“We support human rights!” Just don’t scratch the surface.
On how Japan finagled its way onto the newfound HRC, November 7, 2006

PLUS: ECONOMIST: Human Rights Council in Trouble (March 22, 2007)


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