Highly Biased UN Human Rights Council
Today the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is putting itself under increasing irrelevance by becoming insensitive or partisan in raising and investigating the Human Rights Issues in different parts of the world, more so in Asia and Africa. The Human Rights bodies have always been somewhat vindictive and partisan in their approach. Ever since the Cairo declaration, the Islamic nations have taken it for granted that they can abuse Human Rights and get away in the name of Islam. The religious minorities in the Islamic countries have vanished in thin air and no investigation by independent groups have been carried out. There are Human Rights issues in the war zones of Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, treated with high levels of insensitivities and biases. Military coups and related rights violations in different nations are treated differently. Islamic Jihadists and radicals are committing global terrors, killing innocent lives but the rights groups become deaf & dumb to such violations. Thus, Human rights bodies have disgraced itself by virtue of their biases and partisanship. Many of the burning issues in the world often don’t even find mention in the 2021 UNHRC report. The burning issues of Human Rights in the last one year are briefly enumerated in the text box below but the annual report is at wide variance.
Problems of mis-representation in UN Human Rights Council
The term ‘Human Rights’ was coined following World War II when punitive actions were taken primarily against the German and the Japanese for heinous war crimes. After the formation of United Nation charter in 1945 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Panel in 1948, its charter was essentially for the “dignity, freedom, justice and peace for all nations in the world”. It imparted Civil & Political as well as Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to all human. This included the rights to ethnic and religious minorities as well. Later, refugees incl women and children were added in the list.
Human Rights Council (HRC) at the United Nations, is supposed to be the most revered and supreme representative of the Human Rights of the entire 7.8 billion populations in the world. The Human Rights Council is represented by its members elect. There are 47 member nations on 2-yr rotation basis representing the entire population of the world. In principle, each of these members should represent approx. 16.6 Cr of the world population out of which nearly 50% should be women. However, the reality is entirely different. There are some member nations (China & India) which represent 140 Cr population each by single vote whereas countries like San Marino, Dominica or Fiji have very small population (30k, 70k & 9 lakh respectively). The present president of the HRC is from Fiji hailing from a population of <1 million. Hence, there is a gross unjustifiable misrepresentation of the population at stake esp for the larger nations having multi-ethnic, multi-cultural populations. It is the responsibility of the President HRC or the secretary General of The UN to ensure that at all times, all major and representative minor religio-ethnic groups are represented for a fair and just review of the Human Rights Situations of the world. The two tables below show how disproportionate is the representation of population and the religio-Ethnic groups in the present UNHRC.
In the present 47 member’s representative of the UNHRC, various continental groups of Asia-Pacific, Europe-US, Africa and Latin America find the representation as shown in the table below. Every member has one vote irrespective of them representing the size of their population and that is highly discriminatory. China & India both having ~140 Cr population have one vote each as have the 38 smaller nations each having a population of <1 lakh. Hence, in any council, if Indian or Chinese members don’t find their representation, it will be an injustice to the huge numbers of the men and women they have in their territories, for redressing the major concerns of their Rights. The present constitution of the UNHRC is given below. It is apparent that from 2022 onwards, India having 1/6th of world population will not be represented in the then UNHRC. It will be a huge injustice to their huge population.
China is blessed with being a P-5 member and hence, can always put its foot down on the issues that don’t suit them. But what will India do? What does it do if its rights issues are not reported or redressed amicably? It has nearly 1/6th of the world population with just one vote whereas there are as many as 100 smaller nations having collective population lesser than India; but having 100 votes, with same number of Human values at stake. Surely India is at gross disadvantage at the Human Rights Council. There are other few nations too with 20 + 5 Cr population like Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria or Bangladesh having one vote each…esp if it comes to defending their rights at stake. They will never be able to defend themselves with one vote each for their large population. Any biased annual report, as we find so often, will surely put them at huge disadvantage of defending oneself.
Biases on part of Reporting agencies
Human rights violations occur when the States or non-state actors breach any of the terms of the UDHR or other international human rights or humanitarian laws. In regard to Human Rights violations, article 39 of the United Nations Charter designates the UN Security Council as the only tribunal that may determine the Human Rights violations. Human Rights abuses are monitored by United Nations committees, national institutions & governments and by many independent non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, World Organisation Against Torture, Freedom House, International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Anti-Slavery International. These organisations are expected to collect the evidence of the Rights violations and abuses, free of any biases in their domain areas and submit to the UN. However very often their collections of data are alleged to be heavily biased, based upon various types of influences (whether internal or external). Influencing the Rights Bodies in Autocratic and Theocratic states are all too common and any/all their report submissions must be seen in that light. There, the lives of the people making such reports, are at stake if found unfavourable to the state. Even an elected government of a democratic nation may be able to influence some specific types of reports that may tarnish their image; but the extent of influence is relatively marginal at best, owing to the noise raised by the opposition parties. Democratic nations are also vulnerable to the influences from abroad. Some of the prosperous nations run Lobbying groups. These groups are known to indulge in influencing opinion both within and abroad, in other democratic nations. In India, many of the NGOs, amnesty groups and others often receive foreign funding that are not transparent. These funds are often believed to have been provided for making biased reports as well as for indulging in anti-national activities. These funding agencies are invariably leftist or other ideological groups inimical to the state. Of late many group funding have been received for use against it’s a political party or Hindu majority. It is not only against India but any other democratic nations where others have interest, are facing such influencing lobbies from abroad.
The Stronger or more influential the nations (or group of nations), more are the biases. In such list of influential nations, three categories often escape the culpabilities for rights violations. These are the P-5 nations (USA, China, UK, France & Russia); Influential groups of nations (Islamic Countries, European Union & African Union) and Strong military block (NATO). On the other hand, the radical & violent groups in a nation may prohibit their independent Human Rights bodies from even collecting the data that might go against them. In the present day context, nations having Jihadi groups, some 170 of them thriving as on today, don’t allow any Human Rights Body to work with any degree of freedom within territories. Killing of the Human Rights workers in Pakistan are the burning example.
They pose a clear threat to the lives of anyone trying to even collect the rights violation data. The present day hotbeds of Jihadi terror include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Palestine. Lives of the Human Right bodies are at grave risk in those States. In the first place, the Rights agencies in those nations have a different mindset in general. Very few try to bring-out the issues which are likely to show those theocratic states in poor lights. If someone tries to be honest to the cause of their rights issue, they are often killed by the state sponsored terrorists. The author is aware of several Human Rights activists (of the likes of Zarteef Khan Afridi, Farida Afridi, Arman Loni, Kareema Baloch, Haseeba Qambrani and numerous others) killed or made to disappear in Pakistan. Hence, with such fears, the rights agencies today seldom present the actual pictures of the rights violations for the fears of their lives.
Perpetual Rights Violators with immunity
In fact, all 57 Islamic nations have legitimized their acts which is a clear threat to the world peace. It is highly deplorable as to how the UN permitted the Cairo Declaration in 1990 to adopt an Organisation of Islamic Nations (OIC) resolution that is contradictory to the basic Human Rights charters. Undoubtedly, it is "manipulation and hypocrisy, designed to dilute, if not altogether eliminate “civil and political rights protected by international law" and attempts to "circumvent the principles of freedom and equality”. It is this approach through which the Islamic nations are trying to shield the culpabilities of 170-odd Jihadi groups incl Hezbollah and Hamas. There is no doubt that Islamic Nations are guilty of maltreatment of ethnic minorities within member countries, such as the oppression of the Kurds in Syria and Turkey, the Ahwaz & Parsis in Iran, the Hazaras & Sikh in Afghanistan, Hindu and Sikh in Pakistan & Bangladesh, Buddhists from Malaysia, Al-Akhdam in Yemen or the Berbers in Algeria. Besides, the crimes of non-state groups also must not go unpunished such as ISIS committing heinous crimes on the Yezidis, Boko Haram against school girls and so on.
The Cairo declaration was later replaced by their 18-member Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Islamic States as advisory body. However, tone & tenor were largely the same…self-guarding and inimical to their minorities. Of late, a commission report by British Secretary Jeremy Hunt has concluded that Christians have been subjected to religious persecution in the Middle-East, almost amounting to Genocide. However, this report is gathering dust for years now. This clearly shows the gross bias that the UNHRC have.
Similarly, there have been an ethnic cleansing in Pakistan of all religious minorities for decades wherein their numbers have dwindled down from nearly 21% in 1951 to the present <4%. Out of which, Hindu have suffered the most. Every year, 1000s of Hindu, Christian, Sikh women are first abducted and raped and then forced to convert and married off to Muslim men of any ages. There are numerous reports on it but the UN Human Rights Commission have failed to conduct any transparent investigation by an unbiased group. In the recent few months itself, scores of Hindu, Sikh, Christian women having met this fate have come to the light but there have been no action
taken at all by the UNHRC. I wonder if Pakistan figured among the country having been investigated or implicated at its #HRC48 deliberations. The same is the case in the Middle-East too. Jeremy Hunt’s report doesn’t seem to have the favours of Human Rights groups.
One wonders how the religious minorities have vanished from the Islamic nations which can be considered the biggest of the rights violations amounting to Genocides. However, OIC being a very influential block, has seldom been subjected to a credible investigation by neutral agencies for Rights violations of ethnic & religious minorities, women & children in those nations. The Human Rights watch dogs have conveniently closed their eyes from the happenings. The ethnic black community have long been suffering discriminations in USA but not a single resolution has held them culpable. In the last 20 yrs or so, the Radical Islam has been carrying out gross rights violations in the name of religious ‘Jihad’ through 170-odd terrorist organisations but the world has remained largely mute. UN is yet to frame the definition of ‘terrorism’ because it does not suit the Islamic Block of the nations and their supporters.
The most glaring bias of the Human Rights panel have been in their highly partisan view when it comes to initiating actions against the Jihadi & Terror groups operating from Islamic nations. Most of them in Asia are acting either against Israel or India, besides feudal & sectarian violence against other Islamic entities. These are two solitary nations, the homelands of the religious groups of Jews & Indian Religions (of Hindu, Jains, Buddhist & Sikhs) against whom the radical Islam is highly intolerant. The religious minorities of Indian religion have been wiped out from the Islamic nations…the erstwhile parts of undivided India, be it Afghanistan or Pakistan. Washington Post in their 10 July 2015 had published the inhuman treatment and disappearance of religious minorities from Islamic nations, elaborating at length how the rights of religious minorities are violated in the Muslim Countries of the world as shown below.
UNHRC by its constituent bodies, have been over-represented proportionally by the Islamic nations who act and vote largely as a single block. This is the reason, Israel and India have been suffering the partisanship of the UNHRC for long. At any given time, Islamic nations form the largest bulk of the UNHR member states. At present, of the 57, there are 15 Islamic nations in the UNHRC panel (shown below), the largest chunk of a religious block. At almost every Human Rights conferences, those two nations are at the receiving end. There was a time when the numbers of Islamic nations in the UNHRC was 20. Hence, when it comes to taking action against religious persecution of Islamic radicals & terrorists, they unitedly stand together. In the present UNHRC, some of the worst violators of Human Rights are the members like China (violators of Tibetan Buddhists & Uighurs), Russia (political opponent), Pakistan (Baloch, Hindu, Sikh rights), Bangladesh (Hindu & Sikh rights), Burkina Faso and Somalia (Christian rights). It is a huge challenge to the UNHR to act in a free and fair manner. If Islam could have a say in the matters of Human Rights, so should be other religions…esp those which do not have their own State Religions. It is notable that Islam is in 57 states, Christians in 16 and Buddhism in 4 nations. Hinduism, the 3rd largest religious group in the world has no state for the mix of the oldest (Hinduism) and newest (Sikhism) religions. It may be appropriate for the UNHCR to recommend India
adopt a State of “Indian Religions” that do not find representation elsewhere. It will only be just for the apex body of the Human Rights to render voice to the voiceless and none should have any objection.
UNHRC has specific areas of its concerns and investigations that include the broad groups as enumerated in the text box. It has 3 fixed review meetings in a year. In every review meeting 16 nations are reviewed for their performance on Rights issues. Thus a four year-cycle to complete review of all 193 Member States of the UN are done. Besides, special review of any unusual occurrences could be called for at any time of gross Rights Violations.
The UNHCR’s response to the rights abuse by the various military coup too is not uniform. There seem to be biases there too. While there was wide condemnation of military takeover of administration on justified grounds in Myanmar…the approach continues even today. On the other hand, the military coup of many other nations like Guinea, Mali, CAR, Ethiopia and Sudan hardly evoked comparable response. This is appalling. It shows clear biases by the highest international agencies incl UNHCR.
Biased Annual Reports
In the most recent UNHRC 48th meeting held in September 2021, the priorities were misplaced. The pressure blocks within the UNHRC panel apparently exerted their might. No one spoke of the plights of the religious minorities in the Islamic nations. Afghanistan did come under discussions but more for extending Humanitarian aid than implicating Taliban & ISIS on the numerous atrocities being committed incl on the religious minorities and women. Sadly, a very tangential remark came more of a suggestion for being inclusive with women. The recent report is so biased that Pakistan, the global hub of the terrorists, with >40 Tanzeems of terrorist training centres with over 40,000 terrorists present (as admitted by Imran Khan himself before US President Trump in 2019), finds just one small paragraph on terrorism with 3 sentences. The report could not mention that Pakistan harbours >140 UN proscribed terrorists on their territory, harboured the Haqqani network of Afghanistan, harbours ISIS_K on their ground, the almost confirmed link of their ISI and military in fomenting terror on other nations incl Afghanistan; that it figures on FATF grey list. It didn’t even found it appropriate that many terrorist groups openly express to carry out Jihad within the neighbouring country India. It failed to mention of the international terror links to most of the nations where any terror plot or attack were carried out (eg. Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, France, Syria and so on). While the annual 2021 report names case by case of even questionable rights violations in India…by individual names…individual instances…of religious hatred against minorities on one hand, the targeted political killings of BJP leaders in Kashmir by the Islamic terrorists supported by some separatist groups and over 130 killings of BJP workers by Muslim appeasing TMC in Bengal were conspicuous by its absence, did not find a mention. Religious conversions in India has been a sensitive issue but numerous conversions of Hindu to Islam in Telangana, Andhra and demolishing of Hindu temples did not find mention in the report. In a similar way, numerous forced conversions of Hindu, Sikh and Christian women in Pakistan did not find even mention in their report. Not that Pakistan will become civilised nation by the mentions of its intolerance against religious minorities or by its numerous terrorist training, harbouring and exporting; but it represents duplicity on part of the Human Rights agencies and the watch groups in being partisan in their reporting. It must be seen beyond the narrow prism of India and Pakistan but the outcome would largely be the same…an unjust UNHRC representation and their biased investigations and heavily biased annual reports.
In the time from the last meeting on 27 May 21, the Islamic block of the nations managed to omit reference to the renewed terrorist attack of Hamas and United Jihad Council on to Israel.It is no surprise that Israel had rejected the resolution of May 21 out rightly and will do so again if implicated in isolation.
The UN Human Rights Council has gradually drifted away from being a true representative of the world populace to a biased body of fewer power blocks. The UNHRC representation is highly flawed with a large population being ignored. A nation having 140 Cr population and another having just few thousand, cannot be justified having one vote each in the UNHRC. All religions and cultures must find representation. The power blocks within the council significantly influence their actions. Islamic nations seem to have gained undue advantages.
It is beyond imaginations why persecution and disappearances of the religious minorities of the Islamic nations should not be investigated transparently. In the recent years when the world is troubled with Jihadi activities, there is absolutely no justification why the 170-odd Jihadi organisation of the world should not be investigated and castigated. Rights abuses in the other areas too find different response incl the condemnations of the military coups. The annual UNHCR report 2021 is highly biased for reasons explained above. It is anything but just. UNHCR is no longer a transparent body.
Suggestions for the UN and the UNHRC
The arguments extended above clearly show that the UNHRC has some very lopsided arrangements pertaining to proportional representation and biases towards the power blocks. Hence, an urgent rectification of the problems is desirable for the wider aspirations of humanity at large. The following suggestions are extended: -
1. Constitute a committee that could work out a means of proportional representation for the entire population of the world, having fair representation by population, religions, groups and ethnicities. A nation having a larger population, must have greater representation. All major religions/faiths must have proportionate representation in the UNHRC at any given time.
2. The influence of any single religious block must be removed from the decision making of the UNHR. However, if one block is favoured to have opinion, others too must be given the same provision esp the religious groups which have no religious state for own interest.
3. The reports from the subsidiary bodies of the UNHR like Amnesty International must be unbiased. In order to ensure this, all govt-favouring reports from autocratic & theocratic states must be weighed against the govt interferences. On the other hand, all unfavourable reports from a democratic nation be reviewed if the state has alleged any outside influence or wrong-doing by others.
4. Whenever a special session is called against a state which has religious or ethnic connotations, the bulk vote by religious or ethnic block bust be factored in such way that no wrong-doing is indulged against the loner State who don’t have their religious or ethnic backing among the members.
5. It is strongly felt that during periodical or special reviews, some thumb rules be followed as basic tenets and an independent enquiry must be set-up to investigate the followings under the overall guidance of the Commission: -
- Declining Religious demography of any nation, of any religion esp the Ethnic minorities. The minorities should be defined as those under 15% pf the population.
- Abduction & conversion of the women of the minority groups.
- Deaths under confinement.
- Rapes committed esp on a religious/ethnic/under-privileged groups of women.
Human Rights violations for reasons other than religious concerns too need equal condemnations. Many of the African & European nations are believed to be committing Rights Violations on the basis of Race, Colour and Creed. Rights violation against the female sex and children are equally appalling. Lower caste people in the Asian nations have been exploited for generations. They need to be given equal rights too. If the Human Rights Group of the UN/UNSC wishes to be seen as a saviour of the Rights, it must reform the constituent members of the council to represent all sections of population on realistic terms esp for religious and ethnic groups. Unless that takes place, abolition of Human Rights violations will remain a distant dream of the world.