This month the United States holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council and took the opportunity on April 18, 2017 to convene an unusual meeting on the topic of human rights. The Security Council usually shies away from talking about human rights under the premise that the Human Rights Council is doing a fine job and their mandate to protect peace and security is only tangentially related to protecting human rights. Despite earlier indications that agreement to hold the meeting was conditioned on there being no finger pointing - a conversation about human rights violations with no human rights violators - U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called out Syria, Burundi, North Korea, Burma, Iran, and Cuba in her statement, and a few other countries named a few perpetrators: the United Kingdom named Syria and South Sudan, France called out Syria, and Ukraine named Russia.
Haley also took the opportunity to take a swipe at the U.N.'s long and dismal record on human rights, pointing to the infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution.
In Amb. Haley's words:
"Thirty years ago, my predecessor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, made the case that human rights have a special place in foreign policy. It had been just two years since the General Assembly passed its outrageous resolution equating Zionism with racism. Moynihan thought tolerance and compassion could use a win at the UN, and as usual, he was right...Consider North Korea. Systematic human rights violations help underwrite the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The government forces many of its citizens, including political prisoners, to work in life-threatening conditions in coal mines and other dangerous industries to finance the regime's military...Now consider Syria. In 2011, a group of 12 to 15 year-old teenage boys spray-painted a message on the wall of their school: "The people want the fall of the regime." For this, the Syrian regime arrested them. These children were brutally beaten, had their fingernails ripped out by grown men in government prisons, and tortured before they were returned to their parents. The outrage spawned more protests and more crackdowns, and the cycle repeated until the situation turned into a full-fledged war. And not just any war, but a war that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees...We've seen numerous instances where the Burundian government services use torture to crack down on protesters...We continue to watch Burma, where the security forces have allegedly conducted episodes of violence and repression against ethnic Rohingya, who already face widespread ethnic and religious discrimination from governmental authorities and popular social movements...The next international crisis could very well come from places in which human rights are widely disregarded. Perhaps it will be North Korea or Iran or Cuba..."