“The right to security of a country’s citizens can never be insured by violating the fundamental human and civil rights of another country’s…” – Rousseff (03:30)
This session saw the much anticipated first speech by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. His tone was not as conciliatory as perhaps was expected however it was not aggressive either. He highlighted that Iran wished to work to create a less militarised, more stable world but also highlighted what he felt were injustices being perpetrated against Iran such has the harsh international trade sanctions. Rouhani argued forcefully against these sanctions, saying that they violated inalienable human rights and caused widespread suffering.
The United Nations saw the 27th Regular Meeting of the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council
Lithuania, just beginning their presidency of the European Council, opened discussions with a general statement of the EU position on Human Rights. The delegation from Ireland put forward a draft motion about maintaining pluralist civil society.
The delegations began to grow more adversarial Allegations of forced sterilizations of Tamils were issued against Sri Lanka. Myanmar was criticised for its discrimination and the violence against Rohingya Muslims.
Then a representative of Human Right’s Watch began accusing Egyptian human rights activist, Mona Seif, of not being eligible for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), Egypt raised point of order that it was not relevant to the agenda. America disagreed, Cuba backed up Egypt as did China, UK went with the US then Pakistan supported Egypt. Human Rights Watch went on to call Mona Seif a “terrorist supporter”.
This was not unexpected as the last few months have seen increased controversy over Seif’s nomination following the publicising of Tweets where she celebrating the sabotage of the Egyptian pipeline bringing gas to Israel and the burning of an Israeli flag. Seif defended herself by saying:
“One of the rights that we, the young people of Egypt, have succeeded in seizing is the right to insult our own government and to insult anyone whose policies are bad for our people. We insist on this right.”
Another NGO raised the issue of the Falun Gong in China and their persecution. China objected calling the Falun Gong an “evil cult” which had been outlawed and denying that this was relevant to the agenda. While supporting this point of order from China, Cuba wandered from the point to criticise Israeli violence against Palestinians using the word “genocide” for which the Americans and UK delegations criticised the Cubans.
PAKISTAN: An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude has hit south-west Pakistan with tremors being felt as far away as New Delhi. US Geological Survey has issued a “RED” alert which means estimated fatalities of over 1,000 and damages costing over $1 billion. Updates will follow via Twitter.
UNITED NATIONS: The UN meet today in New York. President Obama will give a welcome address followed by a statement by new Iranian President Rouhani.
The 24th Regular session the Human Rights Council are meeting in Geneva today to raise issues of international human rights in relation racism, racial discrimination or xenophobia. There has been much heated debate so far which will be discussed further here.
KENYA: The Westgate situation continues. On Saturday a group of up to 20 militants attacked the shopping mall in the capital Naiobi with guns and grenades. At least 62 people are dead and another are missing and may either have been killed or are being held hostage inside the centre.
There are mixed messages being release by multiple news sources regarding whether any Americans or British citizens were involved. There are also questions asked about how many hostages are still being held inside.
The new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has been outspoken recently on the need for social reform in his country and with promises not to build nuclear weapons.
In the four months since Rouhani was elected as the 7th president of Iran he was released 11 political prisoners, sworn off nuclear weapons, temporarily lifted bans on Facebook and Twitter and expressed an interest in improving Iran’s relationship with the international community.
“We don’t want nuclear weapons, not because of pressure from the US or others but because of our belief that no one should have nuclear weapons. When we say no one should have nuclear weapons that means not for them and not for us either.” – Ayatollah Khamenei
All this comes ahead of Rouhani’s attendance at the UN General Assembly in New York today. In another interesting move by the new president he is bringing the only Jewish MP in the Iranian parliament, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, with him to New York. Not only this but there may be some kind of informal “accidental” meeting between President Rouhani and President Obama which would be the first time American and Iranian presidents had been face-to-face since the revolution of 1979.
Among the optimism there are many skeptics. Israel’s government is chief among them. PM Netanyahu and those close to him in parliament have been quick and vocal in dismissing Rouhani’s efforts as a “diplomatic deception” to distract international attention while they complete their work on nuclear weapons.
This is unlikely to satisfy Israel. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, a political ally to the prime minister, claimed: “If the Iranians continue to run, in another half a year they will have bomb capability”. But did not offer evidence to back this up.
Some commentators were reminded of Netanyahu’s memorable address to the UN last year with a cartoon bomb that was apparently meant to serve as evidence of Iran’s increasing nuclear research.
Israel might yet be right but, if they are not, what would a more open Iran mean for the dynamics of the region?
Well for one, if they cooperated with UN officials and demonstrated they were not pursuing nuclear weapons then at least some of the heavy sanctions against Iran could be lifted. These sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy and have increased anti-Western/anti-American feeling among a portion of the population. The RT reported on the situation saying that:
“Doctors are also sounding the alarm: the trade embargo has caused shortages of food and medical supplies. The director of a cancer center in Iran says he has faced lots of problems getting modern equipment to treat cancer patients.”
Also if Iran was really willing to remain nuclear free and allow UN inspectors into its research facilities then it would go a long way to disarming much of the region.
“Israel says an Israeli-Palestinian peace must be reached before creation of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.” – AP
A more trusted Iran could also assist in negotiations with radical groups throughout the Muslim world, especially Hezbollah.
But a stable and cosmopolitan Iran would pose a problem for at least three countries, Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia. Israel would no longer be able to use Iran as an excuse for increased militarism and neither would the US. Not only that but Iran would no longer distract for the US ally in the region, Saudi Arabia.
While the human rights situation in the monarchy of Saudi Arabia is even worse than that in Iran, Iran has taken much of the international and media attention away from the Saudis. If this distraction was removed the media would have a greater capacity to criticise the close relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia in light of its many injustices.
But at this point it is a waiting game and we here and Global Echo will keep up to date as Iran-US-Israeli relations continue to evolve.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), known frequently as the Tamil Tigers were rebels who fought in nearly 30 years of civil war before being defeated by the government in 2009. Ethnic Tamils claimed they faced, and still face, much discrimination from the Sinhalese ethnic majority. The goal of the Tigers was to create an independent Tamil state. A UN report says that up to 40,000 people were killed in the final days of the conflict.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, just concluded a week long visit to Sri Lanka which followed a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling on Sri Lanka to investigate civil era war crimes committed by its government forces that passed in March.
“I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction…the fighting is over, the suffering is not”.
“This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced…the United Nations takes the issues of reprisals against people because they have talked to UN officials as an extremely serious matter.” – Pillay
But Rajapaksa claims that these ideas are created by ex-LTTE propaganda and the Sri Lankan people must choose whether to trust in their government or not rather than being “caricatured by external entities influenced by vested interests.”
Pillay will brief the UN Human Rights Council on her findings next month and a full report is due to be published in March 2014.