United Nations Human Rights Council Current Affairs - 2019
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The United States under President Donald Trump administration has announced its withdrawal from United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) terming it hypocritical and self-serving. It has blamed UNHRC for bias against Israel and refusing to eject members who are violators of human rights.
US had opted to stay out of UNHRC before also: The George W. Bush administration had opted against seeking membership when the council was created in 2006. US joined the council only in 2009 under President Barack Obama.
US withdrawal from UNHRC citing for its chronic bias against Israel could reinforce perception that Trump administration is seeking to advance Israel’s agenda on world stage. Israel has been only country in the world whose human rights record comes up for discussion at every UNHRC session, under “Item 7” on the agenda. Item 7 on “Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of UNHRC’s regular business almost as long as it has existed. Moreover, with US withdraw, the council will be left without one of its traditional defenders of human rights. In recent months, US has participated in attempts to pinpoint human rights violations in places like South Sudan, Congo and Cambodia.
Since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, US has announced its withdrawal from UN-backed 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, left UN educational and cultural organization and pulled out of Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Other contentious moves taken by Trumph administration are slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum against its key trading partners, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
UNHRC is an inter-governmental body within United Nations system. It is responsible for strengthening promotion and protection of human rights around globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
It was created by UNGA on 15 March 2006 by adopting resolution 60/251 to promote human rights globally. It had replaced former UN Commission on Human Rights. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
Members: UNHRC is made up of 47 UN member states which are elected by UN General Assembly (UNGA) with specific number of seats allocated for each region of the globe. Members serve for three-year terms and can serve only two terms in a row.
Functions: Members of the council work to engage countries on improving human rights. They make decisions ranging from exposing violations to recommending that UN Security Council make referral to International Criminal Court (ICC). UNJRC does not have authority to take action but can exert significant pressure on violating country. It can also set up special rapporteurs with mandate to investigate and report human-rights violations and abuses.
Sri Lankan Parliament has passed the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Bill.
This bill aims at protecting the rights of criminal victims and witnesses especially in human rights accountability.
Key provisions of enacted law
- Compensation to witnesses who cooperate with investigations.
- Strict punitive action against those who harass victims or witnesses.
- Stringent punishment of prison sentence from three to 10 years to the culprits.
- Witnesses will receive fair treatment and privacy from judicial and investigatory authorities and protections against harassment.
Passage of this bill is seen as reflection of the Sri Lankan new government’s will to implement reforms. It also seeks to fulfill a long-held international demand for justice and human rights accountability in the country.
- Since 2012, for consecutive three years Sri Lanka had faced US-backed UN Human Rights Council (UN-HRC) resolutions on Human rights accountability.
- UN-HRC 2014 resolution also had mandated Sri Lanka to set up of an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses during the 3 decade-long civil war that wiped out the LTTE.