Claire view of the UN farce

Alf was having a bad night and couldn’t sleep. Perhaps this was a consequence of gut-tearing news: BustedBlonde has sounded the last post at Roarprawn.

His night was made worse by a Te Ahi Kaa interview beamed into Eketahuna by Radio New Zealand. It featured one Claire Charters, who was giving this country a bit of a hard time in the human rights department and – would you believe? – dragging Afghanistan into considerations when asked to compare our performance with that of other countries.

Charters was yapping (for much too long) about the United Nations Human Rights Council, the outfit which has recommended our government better protect Maori rights.

Its report was published in Geneva the other day in response to a report from a delegation from New Zealand led by Justice Minister Simon Power.

Charters was there for the big occasion, apparently, on behalf of Maori and as a member of the Aotearao Indigenous Rights Trust. Nuff said.

The stuff that was going on in Geneva is grandly known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process described as

a new and unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) which started in April 2008. It consists of the review of every State in the world (192) by other States once every four years. This means that 48 States are reviewed per year, divided into three sessions of two weeks. The subject of the review is the States’ human rights practices and the respect for their human rights obligations.

Charters, fair to say, regards this time-consuming and expensive carry-on by the UN Human Rights Circus as crucial work.

She said as much, when discussing her work with the radio interviewer and explaining how the UN setup operates, while palpably ignoring the deplorable state of human rights in many of the countries that make up the committee and the pathetic lack of any accomplishments by the UN and/or the committee.

Nah. She was much more intent on letting us know about New Zealand’s shabby treatment of Maori and how ashamed we should be, internationally, and so on.

The interviewer asked: “So compared to other countries how does New Zealand stack up.”

She replied:

That’s a good question, because – for example – Afghanistan followed New Zealand in the UPR Process and of course Afghanistan has got hugely protracted and difficult human rights issues. And so I think there is a recognition that New Zealand’s human rights issues are not as acute as maybe say Afghanistan at the moment, but I would also say there is a clear appreciation coming through the human rights council that there are human rights issues for Maori.

Get that?

Our human rights issues are not as acute as maybe Afghanistan at the moment.

What the bloody hell is the “maybe” all about?

Also there were questions raised about our anti-terrorism legislation, about domestic violence, etc, but especially in relation to Maori issues there is a clear perception in the human rights council and the states that make up the human rights council that not everything is hunky dory when it comes to Maori issues.

And that extends I guess from anything from the fact that other states find it quite I guess confusing if not very odd that you don’t have constitutional – firm constitutional – protection for human rights, so that it’s not possible to go to the courts to overturn legislation that is not consistent with human rights in New Zealand. We are one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have much robust constitutional protection of rights. Now for other states that’s very odd…

Yeah. Bloody useful thing, robust constitutional protection of one’s rights.

The Soviet Union had such a document.

There was not much the poor bloody Russians could do to invoke it, as they were dragged off to Siberia. Or, under Stalin, killed in their millions.

Oh, and while Alf has Afghanistan in mind, only a few weeks back he was reading a piece by Marie Cocco, from the Washington Post Writers Group.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has just signed a law that forces women to obey their husbands’ sexual demands, keeps women from leaving the house — even for work or school — without a husband’s permission, automatically grants child custody rights to fathers and grandfathers before mothers, and favors men in inheritance disputes and other legal matters. In short, the law again consigns Afghan women to lives of brutal repression

What – exactly – is the Un Human Rights Circus doing about this?

And what is it doing about the brutality and repression in dozens of other countries, many of them represented on the UN Human Rights Council.

As Alf scoffed recently:

Just take a look at the council’s composition, if you want to find some countries with real human rights issues to invite condemnation.
Azerbaijan
Bangladesh
Cameroon
Canada
China
Cuba
Djibouti
Germany
Jordan
Malaysia
Mauritius
Mexico
Nigeria
Russian Federation
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Switzerland
Uruguay

Slap that list on a wall, throw a dart, and you’ve got a fair chance of hitting a country with a human rights track record that makes New Zealand look like paradise. Which, of course, it would be, if we could be rid of the professional harpies whose bleatings are apt give Alf a severe dose of the gripes in the middle of the night.

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