More than 80 human rights groups and other related non-governmental organizations have called on the United Nations to drop Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over its military campaign in Syria.
The groups, which include Human Rights Watch, CARE International, and Refugees International, signed an appeal that was launched ahead of the upcoming elections to fill 14 seats on the 47-nation council.
Given the media’s ongoing narrative against Russia’s bombardment of eastern Syria, the call to pull Russia from a council dedicated to human rights may be a well-founded request.
However, one should bear in mind that Saudi Arabia is also a member of this Council. Saudi Arabia is responsible for a recent assault on a Yemeni funeral that killed over 140 civilians and injured over 500 others. The aftermath of the attack was aptly described as a “lake of blood.”
China is a member of this U.N. Human Rights Council. Indonesia is a member of this Council. Though it isn’t often reported by the mainstream media, Indonesia has brutally repressed the people of West Papua simply because a mining company based in West Papua pays the Indonesian government a heap of tax (their biggest taxpayer). Though the West Papuan people have attempted to rise up against Indonesia’s occupation of their country, the Indonesian military suppresses their attempts simply to preserve their tax revenues and protect the interests of the very powerful mining company.
Given that the rest of the Council members’ atrocities are overlooked by these so-called human rights organizations, the motives of these groups should be called into question.
So what is really at play here? Is it the case that these NGOs are deeply concerned with human rights and have therefore drawn the line at Russia’s military campaign in Aleppo? Or are these groups acting as the mouthpieces of their respective governments and donors, including wealthy human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia?
Unfortunately, the case against the motives of groups such as Human Right Watch’s was made over a decade ago. Anti-War released an article in September of 2001 that seriously called into question the objectives and the funding behind Human Rights Watch:
“For a century there has been a strong interventionist belief in the United States – although it competes with widespread isolationism. In the last 10 years, attitudes have hardened: human rights interventionism is becoming a consensus among the ‘foreign policy elite.’ Human Rights Watch itself is part of that elite, which includes government departments, foundations, NGO’s and academics. It is certainly not an association of ‘concerned private citizens.’ HRW board members include present and past government employees, and overlapping directorates link it to the major foreign policy lobbies in the US. Cynically summarized, Human Rights Watch is a joint venture of George Soros and the State Department.” (emphasis added)
Further, NGO Monitor found that in 2009, Human Rights Watch held a fundraising dinner in Saudi Arabia, using their alleged anti-Israel bias to solicit funds from prominent Saudis. Human Rights Watch has actually been critical of Saudi human rights abuses for years, including the treatment of women, the justice system, basic freedoms, and its treatment of Yemen — yet HRW has no problem soliciting funds from them.
Putting Saudi Arabia, a country with a long history of human rights abuses, in the same sentences as “fundraising dinner” and “Human Rights Watch” should tell one something about the dedication these groups truly have towards human rights.
No one is going to miss Russia on a human rights council. But if these groups were impartial and truly cared about human rights, the appeal they signed would call for the removal of more than just Russia given the list of human rights abusers that currently sit on the Council.