UN's Democracies Should Condemn Rights Abusers
Democratic member states of the United Nations should work together to pass resolutions at the UN General Assembly chastising several nations with poor human rights records, Freedom House said today.
The General Assembly will vote in the coming days on resolutions specifically condemning Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan for ongoing human rights abuses. The resolutions are sponsored by various western governments.
"It is incumbent on the UN's democratic member states, under the leadership of the newly created UN Democracy Caucus, to take a lead role in sending a clear signal to these notorious rights-violating regimes," said Freedom House Acting Executive Director Tom Melia. "Doing so at the level of the General Assembly will also help lay the groundwork for the creation of a credible new UN Human Rights Council as a replacement of the discredited Commission on Human Rights."
The UN Democracy Caucus is a global coalition of over 100 democratic and democratizing nations committed to the promotion and strengthening of democracy and human rights at the United Nations. The caucus is an outgrowth of the Community of Democracies (COD), a grouping of democratically elected governments and countries in transition to democracy. The COD seeks to improve cooperation among democratic states in global and regional institutions, coordinate efforts to deepen respect for human rights and democracy, and support emerging democracies.
"It's time that the UN Democracy Caucus function as the community of like-minded democracies it was intended to be," said Mr. Melia. "Censuring North Korea, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan with truth-telling resolutions would be an appropriate start."
As various western governments prepare the condemnatory resolutions, Freedom House research reports provide useful background to conditions in each of the four countries.
According to Freedom in the World, "Iranian security forces subjec[t] hundreds of citizens to arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention... Suspected dissidents are often held in unofficial, illegal detention centers, and allegations of torture are commonplace." The Iranian president's call in October for Israel to be "wiped from the map," should also be firmly condemned by the UN General Assembly. Iran's threats against other countries are reflective of its own internal repression and violence against its citizenry.
Testimony by Thomas O. Melia before the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, on developing a trans-Atlantic approach towards Iran, June 9, 2005:
According to "Freedom in the World," Freedom House's annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties, the North Korean regime "denies even the most basic rights, holds tens of thousands of political prisoners under brutal conditions, and controls nearly every facet of social, political, and economic life. Although the constitution guarantees equal treatment to all citizens, the government maintains a highly developed system of official discrimination. Individuals are accorded security ratings, termed either 'core,' 'wavering,' or 'hostile' in terms of their loyalty to the regime.
In spring 2005, Freedom House initiated a Human Rights in North Korea program to galvanize global opinion toward alleviating the suffering of 20 million Koreans living under the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il. More information about the initiative is available at: http://www.nkfreedomhouse.org.
As noted in Freedom in the World, "authorities in this Central Asian country frequently deny rights of due process, including public trials and access to defense attorneys. Police abuse and torture of suspects and prisoners, often to obtain confessions, is reportedly widespread." President Saparmurat Niyazov, who has established a bizarre and all-encompassing cult of personality, brooks no dissent.
Last May, the government of President Islam Karimov carried out a brutal crackdown against civilian demonstrators in the Uzbek city Andijon. Several eye-witnesses reported that security forces killed at least 700 civilians, some execution style. According to Freedom in the World, "law enforcement officials have used force to prevent demonstrations against human rights abuses in the country, and participants have been harassed, detained, and arrested." The Uzbek government has refused to allow an international investigation of the Andijon crackdown and has also increased restrictions on local and international non-governmental groups operating in the country. Last month, the government banned the British Broadcasting Corporation from working in Uzbekistan.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.