UNHRC being urged to discuss Mideast gov’t crackdowns

Rights Council members are trying to force special session to discuss protests; Islamic Conference opposes the move.

Syria Deraa fire 520 (photo credit: REUTERS/Reuters TV)
Syria Deraa fire 520
(photo credit: REUTERS/Reuters TV)
NEW YORK – Members of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva are trying to force a special session of the body next week to examine government crackdowns against populist protests in the Middle East and North Africa.
Sixteen signatures are required to convene the body for a special session, which is being proposed under the title, “Promotion and protection of human rights in the context of recent peaceful protests.”
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Diplomats said Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria would come under scrutiny in the special session for violent suppression of populist protests.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference, however, has said it will not consent to holding such a meeting.
“We think that the events that are taking place do not merit some kind of a special session,” said Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press quoted Akram as accusing those advocating a special session of double standards, and said the OIC would use any such meeting to focus on human rights abuses by Israel instead.
A spokesperson from the UN Secretary General’s office said his office had no comment on the prospective meeting.
“It’s up to the Human Rights Council members to determine whether to hold a special session,” the spokesperson said.
David Keyes, executive director of the non-governmental group Advancing Human Rights, welcomed the possibility of a special session addressing suppression of recent populist uprisings.
“The UN Human Rights Council should address the crackdowns against civilian populations in the Arab world and Iran,” Keyes said. “It can start with its own member states, like Saudi Arabia, who are among the worst human rights violators in the world.”
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Keyes also referenced the contradictory impulses evident in the HRC.
“Can a brutal dictatorship that bans women from leaving their homes or country without permission of a male guardian sit in judgement of democracies regarding human rights? If the fox can guard the hen-house, then sure,” Keyes said.
“Ruthless dictatorships like Libya should be investigated by the UN Human Rights Council – not chair it. And it should not take the slaughter of thousands of civilians to realize this. Forty years of tyranny is enough.”