Trump and the UN Human Rights Council

AFP photo



Tom Arms



It hurts me to write this. My typing fingers are threatening to seize up to prevent them from pressing down on the keys. Well, here goes:


The Trump Administration has a valid point about the UN Human Rights Council. There, I have written it and it was every bit as painful as I thought it would be.


The fact is, however, that the council is deeply flawed.


For a start, Israel is very much the whipping boy. Many would argue that its policy towards Palestinians has earned them that position. That may be, but the atrocious human rights records of countries such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and China are largely ignored while Israel is the only country which has a permanent standing committee to perpetually examine its misdeeds.


By all means criticise the Israelis. There is much to criticise. But do not destroy the council’s credibility by over-focusing on the Jewish state.


Next there is the membership of the human rights council. Out of the 47 council members, in 2017 nine were singled out by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights for violating the human rights they are supposed to be protecting through their membership of the council. They are: Burundi, Egypt, Rwanda, Cuba, Venezuela, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for UN Human Rights said that China and Saudi Arabia have been on the list of human rights offenders for six of the past eight years.


There is meant to be a mechanism for removing council members guilty of human rights violations, but it is ignored because of under the table political agreements which appear to be endemic in the UN. The violators who remain on the council use their membership to block discussion of their misdeeds.


Having said all that, the human rights council still plays an important role and has done much good work. It meets three times a year in Geneva and during its sessions human rights group have an opportunity to seek UN backing for their various causes.


In 2017, the council sent a fact-finding mission to Myanmar; launched an investigation into renewed violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and despatched a team to Yemen to investigate alleged war crimes. It has been focused on Syria since 2011 and the evidence it has gathered is likely to lead to prosecution for war crimes.


UN Ambassador Nikki Haley claims that the Trump Administration has been working hard for over a year to reform the UN Human Rights Council. So have Britain, Japan, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. The difference is that the others are not quitters.





Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email[email protected].

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