The UNHRC – A Satirical Play

The irony of countries that systematically violate human rights laws, forwarding a resolution at the UNHRC condemning human rights violations in Burma, is the reason why the UN and its rights bodies need urgent overhauling

In a move completely devoid of irony, but fully befitting the ineffective stage on which it was passed, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) proposed a resolution condemning the systemic mass atrocities on Rohingya muslims in Burma. The draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” was adopted without a vote on July 3rd, 2015.

The draft resolution points out that states have primary responsibility for promotion and protection of human rights, condemns violation of human rights and among other things, acknowledges the denial of citizenship status and other related rights to Rohingya Muslims as a concern. It then proceeds to call the government of Myanmar to protect the rights and freedom of the minorities, ensure accountability, to protect places of worship and to end the violence, exploitation and discrimination of minorities, specifically Rohingya Muslims.

The resolutions, by themselves are completely legitimate and within the powers of the countries advancing it. The OIC as an organization has kept itself busy in trying to establish itself as a mediator between acceptable true muslims and the rest of the world. The resolution was a part of their mission to ensure Muslim rights remain unviolated. The absurdity of the exercise, however is in the way the UNHRC meekly adopted the resolution without a single country calling out the OIC or Pakistan for their own human rights violations. 

The OIC is a 57 state organization established in the 1960’s. Members of the organization include almost every muslim majority country in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Pakistan, and South East Asia. The organization’s website calls itself “the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations”, and “the collective voice of the Muslim world, ensuring to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world” With permanent delegations to both the United Nations and the European Union, the organization has managed to push its agenda on various issues that remain vital to the greater Islamic Ummah. These have included condemnation of Israel, highlighting discrimination of muslim minorities in non-Islamic countries and more importantly pushed for an annual resolution condemning religious defamation. The push for what essentially would be an international blasphemy law was one of the landmark resolutions proposed by Pakistan to the UNHRC in 2006.  It ensured that censuring freedom of expression in countries with blasphemy laws would not be seen as a crime. Instead, condemning a religion, would be considered a violation of human rights. The resolution was passed multiple times, before being reworded in 2011.

The OIC as an organization has the strength and the clout on the international stage to redefine various freedoms, rights and human life in an extremely narrow ways. Barring one or two countries, the entire OIC is made of countries that have very little respect for internationally defined human right laws, are belligerent towards suggestions of violations of these laws in their countries and have some of the worst oppressive, regimented rulers in the world. And they sit and push the United Nations to pass resolutions on a state’s responsibility to protect human rights.

The biggest perpetrator of crimes against humanity here is Pakistan. Marginalization of minorities through laws such as ordinance XX which defines who is a muslim and effectively sidelining Ahmadi’s, Christians and Hindus is norm. Pakistan has mastered the art of using blasphemy laws to imprison and push the death penalty on minorities repeatedly. The use of Sharia laws and adoption of Sunni Islam directives to conduct affairs of the state has also sidelined other Islamic sects and have made them foreigners in their own lands. The state is also a full participant in the perpetuation of a genocide against Shia muslims. As Christine Fair points out

 “In 2013 nearly 700 Shia were killed and more than 1,000 were injured in more than 200 sectarian terrorist attacks. Over 90 percent of those attacks occurred in Quetta, Karachi, Kangu, Parachinar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Since the beginning of 2000, nearly 4,000 persons have been killed and 6,800 injured”

Various human rights violations including abductions, kill and dump policies and extreme torture have been recorded against Balochs in the country. With more than 20,000 missing and or found dead and mass graves discovered, Balochistan continues to be severely oppressed by the Military Jihadi complex that runs the country and by state sponsored terrorist outfits.

There is however nothing that the United Nations’ human rights body or the OIC or the western powers can or will do to bring Pakistan to task.

The issue of gross human rights violations against the Rohingyas needs to be addressed and steps have to be taken to stop the mass detention and issue of statelessness for these people. Resolutions from international organizations however, have little impact at the ground level. The issue can only be dealt with effectively by Burma itself, in conjunction with the states bordering it, including Thailand and Malaysia. These are the countries directly affected by Burma’s inhumane treatment of the Rohingya Muslims and their migration. The UNHRC has been useful in ensuring that the Rohingya muslim migrants procure safe passage to other countries and in ensuring they have some level of basic necessities to sustain themselves. It has however failed spectacularly in enforcing countries to adopt international human rights standards. To quietly pass resolutions on human rights violations, proposed by a country and an organization where none of the proposals hold any value, is not just a mockery of the institution but also the values that the UN purports to uphold.

The UNHRC has long ceased to be useful in enforcing universal human right norms. Individual countries who hold veto powers have taken it upon themselves to redefine human rights to suit their purpose, and the smaller countries who have traditionally looked to the UNHRC for various protections are learning to align with the powers that would benefit them the most. The role of human rights organization then needs to be redefined. An organization that has dropped so low in relevance needs to realign itself or risk obliteration.

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