Tuesday, March 11. Geneva.
At the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, a member of the Chinese delegation, rejected criticism by MARGARET SEKAGGYA, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
He complained that human rights activists sometimes seek to “split societies apart”, “sabotage the social order” and “undermine the rights of others”, thus justifying legal measures against them. He asked the Special Rapporteur to “conduct research” on such activities of human rights defenders.
The demand could foreshadow an effort to invert the mandate of the Special Rapporteur into one of policing the work of the human rights community. The statement should be seen in the context of a previous effort to distort the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. During the 7th session of the Human Rights Council in 2008, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation succeeded in introducing an amendment to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, which required the expert to “report on instances where the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination, taking into account Articles 19(3) and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and General Comment 15 of the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which stipulates that the prohibition of the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred is compatible with the freedom of opinion and expression.” Despite meeting substantial criticism and concern from mainly Western democracies, the large proportion of OIC members states on the Council, with support from China, Cuba and Russia, secured the paragraph’s presence in Resolution 7/36. Canada, to no avail, had warned that “the amendment would fundamentally change the mandate holder’s role from promoting to policing the exercise of freedom of expression”
Russia has also accused the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of proposing that such people have special rights and should be governed by a separate legal regime. The delegate asked as to what rights human rights defenders have in comparison to other citizens. Why is defending human rights seen as an “independent right’?
Meanwhile, Venezuela for its part, accused human rights NGOs with using “foreign funding” aimed at the “legal de-stabilization” of the government, and engaging in “politically-motivated attacks” on the “sovereignty and independence” of the country.
The Venezuelan representative concluded that “the Venezuelan state gives full respect for human rights defenders.”
(Image of Margaret Sekkagya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights defenders addresses of the 16th session of the Human Rights Council. http://acnudh.org/)