UN report on Kashmir: Outgoing chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein lacks moral authority to speak on human rights

What happens when a 71-year-old institution that faces obsolescence has as the head of its human rights arm a quasi-Islamist? We get tendentious nonsense such as the one authored by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, whose office has published the first-ever UN human rights report on Kashmir. By tabling a fallacious and irresponsible document, the outgoing UN human rights chief has eroded further the credibility of the UN and hastened its demise.

For all his pretentiousness, Al Hussein has no moral authority to pass judgement on human rights. His role in the suspension of whistleblower Anders Kompass — a senior UN aid worker who was penalised for leaking a confidential UN report on child sex abuse by French peacekeeping forces in Central African Republic — has been called into question.

According to a report in The Guardian, Kompass leaked to French prosecutors a UN internal report that had damning disclosures of rape and sodomy of boys as young as nine by French peacekeeping troops whose responsibility it was to protect the homeless children. Kompass was troubled that the UN had failed to take corrective action to stop sexual abuse of children. For his bravery, Kompass was suspended as director of field operations in April 2015. According to a HuffPost report, Al Hussein accused Kompass of "leaking the report… and requested his resignation. When Kompass refused, Al Hussein demanded that he be investigated".

"The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susana Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case", The Guardian reported.

File image of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Reuters

File image of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Reuters

A report commissioned by former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon later exonerated Kompass of any wrongdoing, but he eventually resigned, protesting the UN's failure to take action against senior officials involved in the cover-up. In another report, The Guardian quoted Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch — a human rights body that monitors the international organisation — in saying that "Moon and UN human rights chief Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad needed to apologise fully to Kompass, who had been a 'hero' for trying to protect abused children 'in contrast to other UN officials, including at the highest levels, who did everything to protect both governments and their own careers".

Al Hussein's sanctimony is further exposed when we consider other inconsistencies in his record. In May last year, the UN rights chief told Uzbekistan to "go easy" in its fight against Islamism. Hundreds of Ubzbek nationals had joined the Islamic State and Uzbekistan was left fighting a grim battle against Islamist radicalisation — a rising spectre across Central Asia. The UN human rights chief — an apparent subscriber of the discredited correlation between resentment and terrorism — urged Uzbekistan to avoid "repressive policies" in its fight against Islamist radicalisation.

It isn't surprising, however, given the fact that Al Hussein, a Jordanian, comes from a country that has repeatedly voted at the UN to criminalise "defamation of religion". During Al Hussein's periods as Jordan's ambassador to the UN, as Jacob Mchangama writes in Foreign Policy, Jordan voted in favor of the resolutions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on "combating defamation of religion" when they were introduced at the UN General Assembly as part of the campaign to implement a global blasphemy ban under human rights law.

These developments, writes Mchangama, sought to turn "human rights into a weapon against religious dissent and nonconformism rather than principles protecting the freedom of conscience and pluralism". The UN human rights chief has never made it unequivocal that the right to criticise religion is an essential part of freedom of expression, which in turn is an inalienable human right.

As much as Al Hussein lacks moral authority to deliver sermons on human rights, it is important to remember that he represents an institution that is not only increasingly irrelevant but has become the butt of global ridicule due to its odious inconsistencies.

In 2014, as the Washington Times points out in a report: "Iran won seats on five subcommittees of the UN Economic and Social Council earlier this week, including one to the Commission on the Status of Women — a body tasked with pressing for women’s rights around the world."

And in 2017, Saudi Arabia was voted on to the UN women’s rights commission in a "secret ballot". As Independent points out, it will now serve a four-year term on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which claims to be dedicated to the "promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women".

In Iran, women are hanged till death if they resist rape. The less said about Saudi Arabia's record on "women's rights", the better. Saudi women still cannot, among other things, "marry, divorce, travel, get a job or have elective surgery without permission from their male guardians, retain custody of their children in a divorce, apply for a national identification card or passport without the permission of a male guardian, get a fair hearing in court or receive an equal inheritance".

An arm of this clownish, sanctimonious institution — that delivers top-quality material for comedy shows around the world — has now taken it upon itself to lecture India on human rights and is busy poking its Pinocchio nose into the internal affairs of a sovereign nation through a factually incorrect and prejudiced report.

The report (available here), which appears to be politically motivated, has glaring inconsistencies and suffers from errors of omission and commission.

It uses Pakistan's nomenclature by referring to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) as "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" several times in the document and repeatedly refers to UN-designated terrorist organisations Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harakat Ul-Mujahideen as "armed groups" operating in the region.

The semantic trickery carried out is deliberate. Not only does it toe Pakistan's line, it furthers Islamabad's ploy of using terrorism as an arm of its expansionist designs in Kashmir. That the UN human rights chief should be party to such politicisation of his office is odious and outrageous. The report also does a shoddy job of being factual.

As Dilip Sinha, former ambassador to the UN in Geneva and vice-president of the Human Rights Council has written in The Times of India: "It (the report) says that India is a state party to the international conventions against torture and enforced disappearance. A check on its own website would have confirmed to the office that India has not ratified either."

Sinha also points out that the report "dwells at length on the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act but ignores the fact that most countries protect their armed forces with similar laws".

India has rightly rejected the report as "fallacious, tendentious and motivated" and has expressed concern that "individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution".

The report also castigates Pakistan — a failed state run de-facto by its army — for failing to uphold human rights in PoK, but the castigation is milder, the reference less detailed and thinner compared to its focus on democratic India which has — for all its faults — more robust institutions.

It calls for establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct an "independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir" but has nothing to say about residents of Balochistan province in Pakistan.

Condemnation and rejection of this malicious report is not enough. Al Hussein's agenda in authoring a mischievous report that — through an act of false equivalence —hands Pakistan a beating stick and lends tacit credence to its illegal and inequitable claims over Kashmir must be brought to light.


Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 09:12 AM

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