Pledges of Human Rights Council Candidates vs. the Reality 2008

According to the UN General Assembly resolution that created the Council (A/RES/60/251, adopted March 15, 2006): "when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto;"


The Human Rights Pledge of Pakistan:
    "Special attention is being given to the social and economic emancipation of women and protection of the rights of other vulnerable groups including children and minorities. Human rights mass awareness campaigns through media & education programme have been launched to promote respect and observance of human rights in the society."

Some of what Pakistan neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The human rights situation worsened during the year, stemming primarily from President Musharraf's decision to impose a 42-day State of Emergency (SOE), suspend the constitution, and dismiss the Supreme and High Provincial Courts....By the end of the year, approximately one dozen activists, primarily lawyers and judges, remained under house arrest...the government required the media to sign a code of conduct that discouraged criticism of the government and led to self-censorship. Other major human rights problems included restrictions on citizens' right to change their government, extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances....Rape, domestic violence, and abuse against women, such as honor crimes and discriminatory legislation that affected women and religious minorities, remained serious problems...Widespread trafficking in persons and exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labor were ongoing problems. Discrimination against religious minorities continued. Child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and worker rights remained concerns."


The Human Rights Pledge of Bahrain:
    "Bahrain gives human rights the highest priorities in its domestic and foreign policy, and this is enshrined in and protected by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which highlights human rights as key pillars for national development .Bahrain is committed to the protection of human rights and freedoms. All national plans and programmes include, and will continue to contain, a human rights dimension, following the aforementioned human rights approach to development."

Some of what Bahrain neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "Citizens did not have the right to change their government. The government restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of press, speech, assembly, association, and some religious practices. Although citizens were not able to form political parties, the law authorized registered political societies to run candidates and participate in other political activities. The judiciary lacked independence, and corruption was a problem. Domestic violence against women and children was common, as was discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of expatriate workers remained problems. The Shi'a majority population was routinely discriminated against."


The Human Rights Pledge of Burkina Faso:
    "The promotion and protection of human rights are the cornerstones of Burkina Faso's policy. This interest springs from a strong desire to strengthen the rule of law, fundamental rights and individual freedoms, and is given its highest expression in the Constitution's enshrinement of human rights as founding values of the State."

Some of what Burkina Faso neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The government's human rights record remained mixed. The following human rights problems were reported: security force use of excessive force against civilians, criminal suspects, and detainees, resulting in injuries; arbitrary arrest and detention; abuse of prisoners and harsh prison conditions; official impunity; occasional restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of assembly; corruption; violence and discrimination against women and children, including female genital mutilation (FGM); trafficking in persons, including children; discrimination against persons with disabilities; and child labor."


The Human Rights Pledge of Sri Lanka:
    "The Constitution of Sri Lanka enshrines Sri Lanka's commitment to human rights by guaranteeing to its citizens, fundamental rights, which include freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom from torture; right to equality; freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment, and prohibition of retroactive penal legislation. In addition, every citizen is entitled to freedom of speech, assembly, association, occupation, and movement."

Some of what Sri Lanka neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The government's respect for human rights continued to decline due in part to the escalation of the armed conflict. While ethnic Tamils composed approximately 16 percent of the overall population, the overwhelming majority of victims of human rights violations, such as killings and disappearances, were young male Tamils. Credible reports cited unlawful killings by government agents, assassinations by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings and child soldier recruitment by paramilitary forces associated with the government, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, poor prison conditions, denial of fair public trial, government corruption and lack of transparency, infringement of religious freedom, infringement of freedom of movement, and discrimination against minorities. There were numerous reports that the army, police, and progovernment paramilitary groups participated in armed attacks against civilians and practiced torture, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and extortion with impunity. The situation deteriorated particularly in the government-controlled Jaffna peninsula. By year's end extrajudicial killings occurred in Jaffna nearly on a daily basis and allegedly perpetrated by military intelligence units or associated paramilitaries. There were few arrests and no prosecutions as a result of these abuses, although a number of older cases continued to make slow progress through the judicial system. Government security forces used the broad 2005 emergency regulations to detain civilians arbitrarily, including journalists and members of civil society."


The Human Rights Pledge of Timor-Leste:
    "...Timor-Leste had been actively engaged in the human rights processes, especially vis--vis the Geneva-based human rights mechanisms....We have integrated the promotion and protection of human rights into all areas of life.... Timor-Leste is committed to striving for the highest standards of human rights around the world..."

Some of what Timor-Leste neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "...some human rights abuses persisted. Serious problems included: politically motivated and extrajudicial killings; police use of excessive force and abuse of authority; arbitrary arrest and detention; inefficient and understaffed courts that deprived citizens of due process and an expeditious and fair trial; and conditions in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) that endangered health, security, education, and women's and children's rights. Domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse were also problems. Societal divisions based on political affiliation and regional origin continued to cause widespread discrimination, segregation, and violence, particularly in the capital."




The Human Rights Pledge of Zambia:
    "The Republic of Zambia remains committed to promoting universal respect for the advancement of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.... Zambia's Constitution recognizes and declares that every person in Zambia has been and shall continue to be entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual regardless of race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, sex, or marital status."

Some of what Zambia neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The government's human rights record remained poor...Human rights problems included: unlawful killings; torture, beatings, and abuse of criminal suspects and detainees by security forces; poor and life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention; long delays in trials; arbitrary interference with privacy; restrictions on freedom of speech and press, and intimidation of journalists; restrictions on assembly and association; government corruption and impunity; violence and discrimination against women; child abuse; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; and limited enforcement of labor rights and child labor laws."