Stefanovich: New UN Human Rights commissioner will deal with Belarus
The opinion was voiced by a Belarusian human rights activist Valancin Stefanovich in an interview to charter97.org. This is how he commented on the latest Zeid Al-Hussein’s appointment.
- How could it influence the priority level of the Belarusian issue within the UN that the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is now a representative of Jordan?
- The level of interest in Belarus should not change this way or another, because there is the procedure, there is a number of commitments, taken by our country. The UN High Commissioner should, first of all, be guided by the Human Rights Declaration, international agreements and covenants, that have been ratified by the member-states. I think there will be no subjectivity. Showing is the example of the UN itself. It was presided by Secretary Generals from different countries and continents, but this did not influence the organization’s priorities. Human rights are of universal nature and the High Commissioner, I think, will be guided by that.
- It is strange to see in such a position a representative of a country, where far from all is good with human rights, especially if we consider that Zeid Al-Hussein belongs to Jordan’s ruling royal dynasty.
- It is hard for me to say, why he got appointed. Probably some compromises played their part. Lately we have been hearing that human rights are an invention of the Western civilization. They also say that it is the reason for clashes between cultures and religions. Zeid Al-Hussein is not a citizen of an EU member-state, he does not belong to the Western civilization. He is a Jordanian, a resident of the Middle East. At the same time UN’s basic documents, including the Human Rights Declaration, were adopted by all the members of the organization, which represent the whole world, not only the West. The appointment to this position of a person from a different civilization highlights the universal nature of human rights. This is equally bad to torture people in New York, Beijing or Minsk.
- Could that be a signal that UN’s priority is the situation in the Middle East, in Syria?
- “Priority” is not quite the word to be used with human rights. It is all important, although, of course, what is happening today in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe. Probably, the appointment was made for by this.
- Zeid Al-Hussein’s predecessor was Navi Pillay. What did she manage to achieve as the High Commissioner? What she did not and why?
- We met with Zeid Al-Hussein’s predecessor. Unfortunately, her visit to Belarus never happened. We shall hope that the new High Commissioner will have such an opportunity, as well as the organizations special rapporteurs. This refers to the special rapporteurs on such issues of principal importance as arbitrary detentions, tortures and protection of human rights activists. We strongly expect that they get invited so they have the opportunity to visit the country. We are also expecting the arrival to Belarus of the special rapporteur on our country Miklos Haraszti.
We shall hope that the appointment of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights will not become an obstacle for UN cooperation with Belarus in full rather than selectively, as we see it now. So far it works like that: on some issues Minsk does cooperate, while they do not on others – on which they get criticized. There are commitments that the country has taken. The issues of their implementation still remain urgent to us. I think, they will remain the same for the new High Commissioner.
The problem is not in the UN in this case, but in Belarus. We can give an example of the Human Rights Committee. The authorities demonstratively claim they will not cooperate with it, they do not recognize it etc. The same goes for the working group on arbitrary detentions. They say they will not cooperate with it in its current composition. The decisions taken get ignored by the authorities. At the same time the country has voluntary accepted the obligations, it is a party to all UN’s basic covenants, it recognizes the credentials of the controlling bodies that have been created. The state should demonstrate the will to fulfill the decisions of the UN bodies, but so far, unfortunately, we do not see that.