02 April 2014

UNHRC resolutions and the politics of discomfiture

For Sri Lanka, the only relevant resolution at this year’s UNHRC sessions is the one tabled by the United States of America.  It is relevant because it was on (read ‘against’) Sri Lanka.  If, however, the world is serious about the UNHRC and therefore whatever resolutions are tabled, voted on, adopted or rejected, then we would see decent coverage in the international media.

Something seems to have happened in the world of media, or rather the big name media houses in the West as well as those that are located in that political bloc for reasons of ownership or ideological bent.  There were many UNHRC resolutions. The most telling had nothing to do with Sri Lanka, namely the Pakistan-sponsored resolution on the use of drones (read, ‘Pakistan’s Resolution against the USA’) and the five resolutions on Israel.  Check the web.  BBC says nothing. Al Jazeera is silent.   
You will have to sweat a bit to find any news report on these resolutions. And yet, Al Jazeera and others in what might be called the Washington Media Bloc were all over Sri Lanka in the run up to the vote and thereafter.

A quick glance at voting patterns might explain this state of affairs. It might also tell us that nothing that happens in the UNHRC is about human rights.

The Drone Resolution, if you will, was passed with 27 voting for it, 14 abstaining and just 6 voting against it.  The wording tells a story.

“The Council urges all states to ensure that any measures employed to counter terrorism, including the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones, comply with their obligations under international law in particular the principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality,” the resolution stated.”

The unnamed target of this resolution is obviously the USA for you can’t talk ‘drones’ without mentioning that country.  Now if the US voted in favor of this resolution or abides by the majority will of the UNHRC it would be a huge setback to Washington’s current strategy of domination (orchestrating internal instability and drone attacks).  It is pertinent to recall that two years ago in a side-event in Geneva the elder statesman of US politics Rev Jesse Jackson said ‘Those who own the drones violate human rights’. 

Interestingly, the USA, UK, France, Republic of Korea and Macedonia, while saying ‘yes’ to the harassment of Sri Lanka over ‘alleged’ war crimes, were conspicuous also in refusing to vote with Pakistan on the vexed issue of drone attacks.  The USA contends that the UNHRC is not the right forum to talk about drone. What, pray, is the right forum? UN-Habitat, the World Health Organization, UNICEF? We should not forget that the British and European parliaments have made it crystal clear that they want increased transparency on drone strikes.  Perhaps the relevant governments don’t care about the voice of their respective peoples, which would mean that good governance is not their piece of cake. Why then talk of such things when it comes to Sri Lanka, one wonders.

These pertinent political subtleties were missed by BBC, Al Jazeera et al and that’s no surprise since they obviously didn’t even notice that a vote had been taken on drones.  BBC’s ‘latest’ drone story has nothing to do with the UNHRC resolution. It’s about Facebook’s plans to connect the two-thirds of the world that has no net access using drones, satellites and lasers.  How lovely, how far away from people who suffer death, displacement and bereavement on account of ‘resolution drones’! 

Let’s move to Israel.  There were five resolutions relevant to that country: a) An independent international fact-finding mission on Gaza, b) Text on the HR situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory, c) Text on Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and Syrian Golan, d) The right of Palestine people to self-determination, and e) Human rights in Syrian Golan.

All five were adopted.  The first four garnered 46 out of 47 votes while the last had 33 in favor, 1 against and 13 abstentions. Who was that stand-out ‘one’?  Why, the United States of America of course!  Did Al Jazeera have anything to say about these amazing numbers? Did BBC?  Nope.  Why not?  Well, it looks like ‘Human Rights’ is not the issue for these countries.  It looks like it is just about basic politics pertaining to the self-interests of various member states. 

So what do we have to say about people like Navy Pillay when they wear grave expressions and weep copious tears on behalf of people they think have been wrongs, never mind that some of them ‘lost’ fathers and husbands who happened to have killed dozens of people in cold blood, not to mention advocating and indulging in kidnapping, suicide attacks and other wanton acts of butchery?  What do those who cheered the ‘victory’ of the US resolution on Sri Lanka have to say about the US and the UK playing ostrich on Israel and drones?  Do they feel shy, one wonders and concludes, ‘probably not’ for reasons that are too obvious to mention. 

So what do we have to say about the UNHRC itself?  Is it an august body where serious people discuss serious issues became all those present value human life, are concerned about things like democracy, peace, justice, reconciliation etc.?  Or is it just a platform for the powerful to browbeat the weak and for the worst perpetrators of crimes against humanity to strut around as though the world has not known worthier defenders of freedom and benefactors of humankind? 

The jury is in.  The verdict is out.  Al Jazeera will not report and neither will BBC.  Says a lot about the world we live in, does it not?    



Anonymous said...

Brilliant report.

Asoka K