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ICC Note:

New UN Human Rights Council is set to be discredited just like the previous UN Human Rights Commission due to the presence of countries like China and Pakistan in the body. The UN has not learned from its own mistakes.

AsiaNews (05/10/06) – The new United Nations Human Rights Council “is a useless institution”, said international politics professor Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, in an interview with AsiaNews.

Launched yesterday, the new body already appears powerless in spreading a culture of respect for human rights. The reason is that among its members there are countries like China , Pakistan , Russia Saudi Arabia and Cuba .

Based in Geneva , the new council replaces the United Nations Human Rights Commission which was discredited by the presence of countries, sometimes in a leading role, that failed to respect the UN Human Rights Charter.

The new body is regionally- and population-based. Africa has 13 seats; Asia, 13; Latin America and Caribbean, 8; Eastern Europe, 6; and Western Europe and others (including US, Canada , Israel ), 7. Its first meeting is scheduled for June 19.

Here is an interview V. Emanuele Parsi, full professor of international politics at Milan ’s Università Cattolica, gave to AsiaNews.

How will human rights be enforced?

The old commission was discredited because it never succeeded in influencing states’ human rights policies, and this council will certainly come to a stalemate as well. The criticism brought against the old commission was correct: human rights were used for economic reasons, as a tool of big power policy (in fact, no major power was ever condemned for human rights violations), etc. But the decision to base its membership on regional and population factors undervalues human rights and makes them a relative concept.

How?

Because the new standard puts countries where human rights are respected on par with those ruled by dictatorships that commit violations! In doing so the Council loses its credibility.

Do human rights no longer have a universal value?

Lately the debate has pitted those who believe in the universality of human rights and those who say that human rights are culturally and historically specific. We had to debate the issue, holding firm on some points, but allowing each side to air its views. Instead, with the new council, there won’t be any discussion. Each side will feel comforted in its own ideas and states will enforce human rights as they please.

What does the future have in store?

The new council is a useless institution. Those who defend human rights won’t have any means to shape policy. And it is wrong to base everything on votes and numerical representation. If a group suffers human rights violations in Pakistan , how can it appeal to the council of which Pakistan is a member?

If one wants to report human rights abuses what can one do?

It will be useless to appeal to the Council. One can always turn to the secretary general and the Assembly.