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Resources updated between Monday, April 26, 2010 and Sunday, May 02, 2010

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Iran's election to the UN Commission on the Status of Women on April 28, 2010 wasn't the only UN shocker that day. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe are among the dictatorships and human rights basket-cases elected to UN leadership roles and positions that entail responsibilities diametrically opposed to their qualifications.

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UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations

The UN job description for the NGO Committee: "The main tasks of the Committee are...The consideration of applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification submitted by NGOs...[T]he monitoring of the consultative relationship." (Committee on NGOs web-site)

In plain language, this Committee gets to decide what NGOs are permitted to get UN passes, passes which will allow them into the UN, to lobby governments and to participate and speak at UN meetings.

Who gets to choose the right and wrong NGOs? On April 28 the UN re-electedSudan, Cuba, China andPakistan.

Their qualifications for the job?

SUDAN

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Sudan)
"[T]he government expelled 13 humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from the country. The government also shut down three Sudanese NGOs in March...As of year's end whereabouts [of the cofounder of the NGO Darfur Forum for Reconciliation and Peaceful Coexistence] were unknown...Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained...NGO members...[G]overnment forces frequently harassed NGOs that received international assistance; restricted or denied humanitarian assessments; did not approve technical agreements; changed procedures; copied NGO files; confiscated NGO property; questioned humanitarian workers at length; monitored humanitarians' personal correspondence; delayed the issuance of visas and travel permits; restricted travel; and publicly accused humanitarian workers of being "spies," "Western agents," and "workers for Israel."

CUBA

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Cuba)
"[T]he government did not recognize any domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally...There are no officially recognized, independent NGOs that monitor human rights...The government continued to deny human rights organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to political prisoners and detainees."

CHINA

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, China)
"Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), both local and international, continued to face intense scrutiny and restrictions...[T]he government maintained a task force aimed at blocking political change advocated by NGOs involved in social, political, and charitable activities, and also by groups dedicated to combating discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, and minorities...To register, an NGO must find a government agency to serve as its organizational sponsor, have a registered office, and hold a minimum amount of funds...The government did not permit independent domestic NGOs to monitor openly or to comment on human rights conditions...The government...increased scrutiny of NGOs with financial and other links overseas."

PAKISTAN

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Pakistan)
"Criminal groups, some with ties to militant groups, engaged in extortion and kidnapping activities throughout the country...NGO workers were among those targeted... NGOs are required to register with the government...Security was a problem for NGO workers...By year's end seven NGO workers had been killed...and several others had received threats...[S]ecurity agencies blocked issuance of visas for international staff of NGOs..."


UN Commission on Social Development

The UN job description for the Commission: "...the Commission has taken up key social development themes...These themes are...Promoting full employment and decent work for all...Improving public sector effectiveness....National and international cooperation for social development...Integration of social and economic policy" (Commission for Social Development web-site) )

On April 28 the UN choseZimbabwe and re-electedEgypt andCuba as social development authorities.

Their qualifications for the job?

EGYPT

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Egypt) "The country was a source, transit point, and destination for women and children trafficked primarily for the purposes of forced labor...The law prohibits strikes...[E]mployers abused, overworked, and generally endangered working children...There were reports of employer abuse of undocumented workers, especially domestic workers."

ZIMBABWE

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Zimbabwe) "The government's campaign of forced evictions and the demolition of homes and businesses continued during the year under the land reform policy, which affected more than 5,000 farm workers and their families. Approximately 3,300 families were forcibly displaced, sometimes violently, during government-condoned takeovers of commercial farms...[C]hild labor was common...[T]he incidence of children who worked in the informal sector continued to increase...Children often lacked access to necessary safety equipment and training. Children worked...in illegal gold and diamond mining, as street vendors, and as car-watchers. There were continued reports of large numbers of girls subject to sexual exploitation."

CUBA

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Cuba) "The law does not allow workers to form and join unions of their choice. The only legal labor union in the country was the CTC, whose leaders were chosen by the CP [Communist Party]...Virtually all workers were required to belong to the CTC, and promotions frequently were limited to CP members who took part in mandatory marches, public humiliations of dissidents, and other state-organized activities...The government can determine that a worker is "unfit" to work, resulting in job loss and the denial of job opportunities. Persons were deemed unfit for their political beliefs, including their refusal to join the official union, or for trying to depart the country illegally. Several small independent labor organizations...were subject to police harassment and infiltration by government agents and were unable to represent workers effectively or work on their behalf...The law does not prohibit forced or compulsory labor by adults...Authorities also often imprisoned persons who refused to participate in mandatory work...[T]he government required children to work in various situations."


Commission on the Status of Women

The UN job description for CSW: "The Commission on the Status of Women...is...dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. It is the principal global policy-making body. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide." (Commission on the Status of Women web-site, "Overview")

On April 28 the UN deemedThe Democratic Republic of the Congo andIran to be worthy of the job.

Here are the DRC's qualifications:

THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, DRC) "...[R]ape was common throughout the country and especially pervasive in conflict areas in the east...[M]ore than 1,100 women and girls were raped each month...Government security forces, armed groups, and civilians perpetrated widespread and sometimes mass rape against women and girls...[M]embers of armed groups, the FARDC [Congolese Armed Forces], and the police were responsible for 81 percent of all reported cases of sexual violence in conflict zones...It was common for family members to pressure a rape victim to keep quiet...to safeguard the reputations of the victim and her family...After a sexual assault, many young women and girls were often labeled as unsuitable for marriage and married women were frequently abandoned by their husbands. Some families forced rape victims to marry the men who raped them or to forego prosecution in exchange for money or goods from the rapist."

As to what newly elected member of CSWIran brings to the table see "Since When Is Iran a Champion For Women's Rights?"


UN Commission on Sustainable Development

The UN job description: "...to promote dialogue and build partnerships for sustainable development with governments, the international community and the major groups...who have a major role to play in the transition towards sustainable development. These Major Groups include women, youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, the scientific community, and farmers." (Commission on Sustainable Development web-site, "Mandate of the Commission on Sustainable Development"))

On April 28 the UN choseAngola andLebanon, and re-electedSaudi Arabia as social development authorities.

Here are their job qualifications:

ANGOLA

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Angola)
"The government arrested and harassed NGO workers...[T]rafficking in persons, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and indigenous persons were problems...Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, was common and pervasive...Female inmates informed...that prison guards regularly raped them... [C]hild labor...remained a problem...Children engaged in...exploitive labor practices [which] included forced prostitution, involvement in the sale or transport of illegal drugs, and the offloading and transport of goods in ports and across border posts...Street children were common..."

LEBANON

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Lebanon)
" Palestinian refugees residing in the country were not able to obtain citizenship...The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, and domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a problem...Foreign domestic servants, usually women, were often mistreated, abused, and in some cases raped or placed in slavery-like conditions...According to the penal code, a man who kills his wife or other female relative may receive a reduced sentence if he demonstrates he committed the crime in response to a socially unacceptable sexual relationship conducted by the victim...[D]iscrimination against persons with disabilities continued...Discrimination against homosexual activity persisted...Women from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia were trafficked and forced to provide sexual or domestic services. Children...were... subject to forced labor."

SAUDI ARABIA

(Freedom House Country Report 2009, Saudi Arabia)
"Women...may not legally drive cars, and their use of public facilities is restricted when men are present. By law and custom, Saudi women cannot travel within or outside of the country without a male relative...[D]aughters receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers, and the testimony of one man is equal to that of two women in Sharia courts...[A]llegations of torture by police and prison officials are common, and access to prisoners by independent human rights and legal organizations is strictly limited...There continues to be virtually no protection for the more than six million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. Many of these laborers...are forced to endure dangerous working and living conditions. There continue to be public reports of female domestic workers suffering regular physical, sexual, and emotional abuse...Substantial prejudice against ethnic, religious, and national minorities prevails."


U.N. Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Governing Council

The UN job description: "The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT...is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. UN-HABITAT's Land and Tenure Section is the agency's point of reference for land management and tenure systems, policies and legislation that help achieve adequate shelter, security of tenure and equal access to economic resources for all, with a specific focus on gender equality. The main focus areas and mandate are implementation of land, housing and property rights, and particularly secure tenure for women." (UN-HABITAT web-site, "Shelter Branch")

On April 28, the UN re-electedIran as the right country for the job.

Here are Iran's qualifications for the Governing Council:

IRAN

(US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2009, Iran)
"Provisions in the Islamic civil and penal codes, particularly sections dealing with....property law, discriminate against women...The constitution allows the government to confiscate property acquired...in a manner not in conformity with Islamic law, and the government particularly targeted religious minorities, especially members of the Baha'i faith...The courts denied Baha'is the right to inherit property...The government reportedly continued to confiscate private and commercial properties, as well as religious materials, belonging to Baha'is...There were widespread reports that government agents entered, searched, and/or ransacked the homes and offices of reformist journalists in an attempt to intimidate them."

April 30, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on FOXNEWS.com.

How could a country that stones women to death for adultery possibly be chosen to serve in a leadership role on the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women?

The United Nations Economic and Social Council yesterday elected Iran to serve a four-year term -- beginning in 2011 -- on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The U.N. calls the Commission "the principal global policy-making body" on women's rights and claims it is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women." Yet Iran was elected by acclamation. It was one of only two candidates for two slots allocated to the Asian regional bloc in other words, a fixed slate and a done deal.

Among other Iranian qualifications to serve in a leadership role in advancing the rights of women, is the country's criminal code, which includes punishments like burying women from the waist down and stoning them to death for adultery.

The 2009 U.S. State Department report on Iran outlines other highlights of Iran's women's rights credentials. For instance, "spousal rape is not illegal" and when it comes to any other kind of rape "most rape victims did not report the crime to authorities because they feared...punishment for having been raped...Four male witnesses or three men and two women are required for conviction. A woman or man found making a false accusation of rape is subject to 80 lashes."

Other features of Iran's legal system, according to the State Department, include: "a man may escape punishment for killing a wife caught in the act of adultery if he is certain she was a consenting partner....[I]n 2008, 50 honor killings were reported during a seven-month period..." In general, "the testimony of two women is equal to that of one man." Moreover, "a woman has the right to divorce only if her husband signs a contract granting that right, cannot provide for his family, or is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. A husband was not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife."

As USA Today has reported, women have borne the brunt of Iran's crackdown on civil liberties. Laws permit polygamy, employment laws favor men, and family laws entitle women to only half the inheritance of a man.

In an effort to prevent Iran's election to the Commission, the National Iranian American Council reported prior to the meeting: "in the past year, Iran...has charged women who were seeking equality in the social sphere...with threatening national security...Its prison guards have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and raped female and male civil rights protesters...In universities...the government is now banning women from key areas of study. Childcare centers are being shut down to hamper women's ability to work...Women's publications that addressed gender equality have been shut down. The regime is attempting to erase decades of struggle and progress."

None of that made the slightest difference to the U.N. bosses. The Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1946 with the usual stated lofty goals. CSW was charged with "promoting women's rights" and making "recommendations on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women's rights." The forty-five member states meet annually at U.N. headquarters in New York, boasts the U.N. website, to "identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide."

Having welcomed Iran into its exclusive club with open arms, the challenges facing Iranian women will obviously not be on the CSW agenda any time in the future. It should be noted that the likelihood of CSW caring one whit about the fate of Iranian women was remote. For years the CSW has only ever adopted one resolution naming any country for violating women's rights -- you guessed it Palestinian women's rights allegedly violated by Israel. The Commission is "gravely concerned" about Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. The right to life of Palestinian women and girls subject to honor killings, coerced into becoming suicide bombers or child soldiers at the hands of non-Israelis somehow has never made it on to their radar screen. And the same is true of the rights of women and girls violated by any other specific state on earth but Israel.

Along with Iran, other human rights stalwarts elected to the Commission yesterday were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Zimbabwe. They will join current CSW members and human rights enthusiasts like Belarus, China, Cuba, and Libya.

Iran's election to the leading U.N women's rights agency indicates two things. First is the low regard held for women's rights on the U.N.'s list of priorities. Iran had originally wanted to become a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council but various players decided that Iranian membership might be even more embarrassing than current HRC members and U.N. human rights authority figures like Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, Angola, Egypt, and Krygyzstan. Women's rights were the consolation prize. Second is the continuing muscle of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the U.N. Nobody challenged Iran's entitlement to membership on at least one major rights body. Nobody dared to.

This is another example of just one more U.N. body created to do one thing and now doing the opposite, for which American taxpayers foot 22% of the bill. And it will continue unless those with their hands on the spigot in Congress finally decide to turn off the tap.

April 28, 2010

April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Anne Bayefsky's comments on Iran's withdrawal of its candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council appear in an article today on CNSNews.com.

Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and editor of Eye on the U.N., disagreed that the development showed the HRC was becoming a serious agency for promoting human rights.

"At the last council session, no resolution on Iran's abysmal human rights record was even presented let alone adopted," she said Sunday. "There has never been any special session of the council on Iran, though the events of last June's election and subsequent crackdown cried out for serious attention."

Bayefsky recalled that when Iran went through the council's "universal periodic review" mechanism earlier this year the process "ended with a round of applause for Iran."

"So the fact that Iran is not a member of the council has not made the slightest difference to the council's total unwillingness to do anything about human rights in Iran."

Noting the presence on the council of "countries with some of the worst human rights situations on the planet" - such as Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba and Russia - Bayefsky said that "adding or subtracting Iranian membership is hardly determinative of the council's credibility."


The full story is below.

April 26, 2010 | by: Patrick Goodenough

Iran has confirmed it will no longer run for a seat on the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council. Instead, it aims to become a member of an international women's rights body.

Iran's bid to win one of four HRC seats earmarked for Asia had drawn strong opposition from rights campaigners already critical of the presence of countries with poor rights records - including China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia - on the 47-member body.

Iran's withdrawal means that the remaining candidates for the four Asia seats - Qatar, Malaysia, Thailand and the Maldives - are all but assured of success when the full 192-member U.N. General Assembly on May 13 elects 14 HRC members.

Iran made the decision to end its candidature after discussions with other members of the U.N.'s Asia group, Tehran's foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Sunday.

Hinting at a quid pro quo, he said that Iran would instead be a candidate for an international women's rights body - "and all Asian countries will support our membership."

It was not immediately clear which body he meant. Iran's ILNA news agency quoted Mehmanparast as saying the "Women's Human Rights Council" while IRNA quoted him as saying the "International Commission for Protection of Women's Rights."

There are two main U.N. bodies relating to women's rights. The 23-member Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) holds elections in June for 11 vacancies, but the nomination list closed in March and Iran is not on it. The 45-member Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will have two Asia seat vacancies early next year, when Pakistan's and Cambodia's terms end.

Whatever the case, the prospect that Iran - with the support of other Asian states - will take a seat on a body charged with promoting the rights of women is certain to stoke controversy.

"Putting fundamentalist Iran in charge of a women's rights commission is like putting a pyromaniac as chief of the fire department," Hillel Neuer, director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, said late Sunday. "It's an outrage, and completely unacceptable."

Among the reasons Iranian and other human rights advocates gave for urging governments to block Iran's HRC candidacy was its treatment of women.

In a letter to U.N. member states last week one of Iran's most prominent rights advocates, the exiled Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, urged them to reject the candidacy of a country "which has been violating human rights for years."

Ebadi gave examples of discrimination faced by Iranian women, including the fact that "blood money" - the prescribed amount paid to the heirs of a murder victim - for a woman is half the sum of that for a man.

"The testimony of two women is equivalent to the testimony of one man," she wrote. "A man is permitted to have four wives and divorce any of them without giving any reasons."

Ebadi said that women in Iran who seek equal rights are charged with conspiring to overthrow the Islamic Republic. More than 100 such women currently faced criminal charges.

Another letter sent to U.N. members last week urging them to block Iran's HRC bid came from 12 top Iranian human rights activists, who said women in the country were treated as "second class citizens."

The State Department's most recent international human rights report, released last month, noted that Iranian women face discrimination even in the administration of some of the most controversial shari'a punishments, such as stoning for adultery.

"The law provides that a victim of stoning is allowed to go free if he or she escapes," the report said. "It is much harder for women to escape, as they are buried to their necks, whereas men are buried only to their waists."

'With or without Iran, council lacks credibility'

Iran's withdrawal from next month's HRC election followed behind-the-scenes lobbying by the U.S. and other Western members.

The decision drew widespread praise from human rights advocates and others, and U.S. officials characterized it as a sign the council was moving in the right direction.

Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and editor of Eye on the U.N., disagreed that the development showed the HRC was becoming a serious agency for promoting human rights.

"At the last council session, no resolution on Iran's abysmal human rights record was even presented let alone adopted," she said Sunday. "There has never been any special session of the council on Iran, though the events of last June's election and subsequent crackdown cried out for serious attention."

Bayefsky recalled that when Iran went through the council's "universal periodic review" mechanism earlier this year the process "ended with a round of applause for Iran."

"So the fact that Iran is not a member of the council has not made the slightest difference to the council's total unwillingness to do anything about human rights in Iran."

Noting the presence on the council of "countries with some of the worst human rights situations on the planet" - such as Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba and Russia - Bayefsky said that "adding or subtracting Iranian membership is hardly determinative of the council's credibility."

'What about Libya?'

The last time Tehran stood for a seat on the HRC was 2006, when the council was established to replace the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). Iran was one of 18 countries competing for 13 Asian seats and got the second lowest number of votes, with only Iraq doing worse.

Since that first election, the amount of competition for seats has fallen sharply.

Barring any last minute entries, on May 13 neither Asia nor any of the other geographical groups - Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Western group - will offer any contest. All have "closed slates" - the same number of candidates as there are available seats.

Human rights organizations have argued that a lack of competition has helped violators to get seats.

Neuer of U.N. Watch drew attention Sunday to the likelihood of Libya winning a seat next month.

Although an official U.N. list of candidates does not currently include any African country, diplomats say Libya is one of four African candidates for four available African seats.

"Libya persecutes its two million black African migrants, for which it has been denounced by the U.N. itself," Neuer said. He also cited the torture of a Palestinian doctor and Bulgarian nurses accused of deliberately infecting Libyan children with the HIV virus, and Libya's incarceration of a Swiss businessman after Muammar Gaddafi's son was arrested in 2008 and accused of assaulting personal staff at a Geneva hotel.

Neuer drew a contrast between Western opposition to Iran's HRC bid and Libya's.

"Western states are doing nothing about this because they now buy Libyan oil, and because Gaddafi has for now sworn off terrorism, and is in a kind of post-rogue recovery program," he said.

"Western states who are on the council know that Libya will be elected, and fear the impact this could have on the perceived credibility of the council. "Regrettably, they have more fear about the PR consequences - how the people will view what the foreign policy elites are doing in Geneva - than they do of the actual damage that Libya's presence on the council will cause," Neuer added.

Libya was not only a member of the now defunct UNCHR, but in 2003 it was nominated by the African group to chair that body.

The Bush administration opposed the move and for the first time in the commission's history, the U.S. forced a vote, breaking with the tradition of filling the chairmanship "by acclamation."

Libya won by 33 votes to three (it was a secret ballot, but the three votes were understood to have come from the U.S., Canada and Guatemala). Another 17 UNCHR members - including European Union nations - abstained.