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Home » Home, UN NEWS » HRW Calls the UN Secretary General to Name and Shame

HRW Calls the UN Secretary General to Name and Shame

HRW at the UNCA press conference on January 14 - 2020 (from left to right) Louis Charbonneau, UN director, Human Rights Watch (HRW); Emma Daly, media director, HRW; Kenneth Roth, executive director, HRW and Sophie Richardson, China director, at HRW - presenting HRW 2020 Annual Report focusing China (Photo by Erol Avdović - Webpublicapress New York 2020).

Kenneth Roth, executive director, Human Rights Watch (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress UN January 2020).

Human Rights Watch, logo (public domain - for education only)

Staphane Dujarric chief UN spokesperson talking to reporters at daily press conference, January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdovioć - Webpublicapress 2020)

Chinese diplomat strongly protesting and rejacting the HRW launching its Annual Report 2020 focusing China; he criticize HRW among the other things failed to take in account of lifting more then 700 million Chinese citizens out of poverty. (Photo by Erol Avdović - Webpublicapress 14 January 2020.)

HRW at the UNCA press conference on January 14 - 2020 (from left to right) Louis Charbonneau, UN director, Human Rights Watch (HRW); Emma Daly, media director, HRW; Kenneth Roth, executive director, HRW and Sophie Richardson, China director, at HRW - presenting HRW 2020 Annual Report focusing China (Photo by Erol Avdović - Webpublicapress New York 2020).

HRW at the UNCA press conference on January 14 – 2020 (from left to right) Louis Charbonneau, UN director, Human Rights Watch (HRW); Emma Daly, media director, HRW; Kenneth Roth, executive director, HRW and Sophie Richardson, China director, at HRW – presenting HRW 2020 Annual Report focusing China (Photo by Erol Avdović – Webpublicapress New York 2020).

By Erol Avdović (WEBPUBLICAPRESS/UNITED NATIONS) – Even after all the relevant criticism, and frequent similar remarks from journalists, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres seemed he is pulling back. Some silent objections from behind the closed doors, by well-versed East River diplomats suggests he is a “tough nut” to describe his rich political character, since he is stubbornly pressuring to maintain a state of untouchability and the fact that he is above all. Yet, other say it is simply a fear of the powerful above himself, so all his actions are reduced to a line of less resistance. There are evidently more educated guesses to support the latest.

The 30th Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2020 Global Report – focusing on China this year and presented at the UN actually confirms that Mr. Guterres does not want to resent the countries that HRW routinely calls grave human rights abusers, as they say out of fear. From China to the United States, and other powerful or rich – a whole spectrum of countries from which Guterres does not want to be brazen, whether politically or financially. Especially now that the UN is facing yet another financial crisis. Although he is constantly talking about “ongoing reforms”, the top UN leader increasingly seems like someone who offers less vision and nothing more than ordinary rhetoric. And, that’s why Human Rights Watch took again on him.

Who is feeling the heat

Addressing UN-accredited journalists HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth, stated that Mr. Guterres is silent when not needed, and his reactions on various important topics with human rights abuse in the center of the interest are told too broadly. His statements are very much – in general, Roth sugested so those whose rights have been violated have little or no benefit from these and such UN’s head talk.

Kenneth Roth, executive director, Human Rights Watch (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress UN January 2020).

Kenneth Roth, executive director, Human Rights Watch (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress
UN January 2020).

Mr. Roth who was recently denied entry to Hong Kong by government of China where HRW wanted to present their Annual Report (a very thick book) with some 100 countries they have put to the spotlight this year, said they have purposely choose United Nations Headquarters in New York. From UN they wanted to present this report and deliver strong message to China. Unfortunately, he hinted – there was little to none, certainly not enough cooperation by highest UN office to deliver the same kind of a strong and non-ambivalent message to Beijing.

Not to long ago, in April 2019. Kenneth Roth wrote an fiercely intoned article in Washington Post saying the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres have nothing more than the poor record on human rights.

Answering a question from Webpublicapress (WPP), at the press conference in New York – does he still believe the Secretary General has that record on human rights, and did he improve – the HRW director said that public letter to the Washington Post was the last resort, after the UN Secretary General heard their appeals, but remained deaf to their calls.

At the same time Roth added, he “don’t like to pretend that the Secretary General never did anything for human rights, because there are times when he (Guterres) stands for human rights.”

“But, he is being very reluctant to speak publicly in focused terms about Human Rights, (HR) particularly if the abuser is a powerful nation,” Roth told Webpublicapress. “So you will see him making broad statements, for example – I urge respecting human rights, or I wish all parties should respect HR. Those are very nice generic statements, but nobody feels the heat.”

And, Mr. Roth stressed, “if no one feels the heat, statements like that make no deference. Governments have the reasons to violate human rights – it is the way to stay in power.”

The need for a different  public course 

Human Rights Watch, logo (public domain - for education only)

Human Rights Watch, logo (public domain – for education only)

HRW says unless UN does not change the analysis that would help removing the stigma attached to human rights abuses, there can be no change by government offenders. “That’s why we push for much more public statements on HR,” Roth said.

Human Rights Watch executive director said it is not even helpful when the UN Secretary General tells “he is bringing the issues (to the countries) in private.”

“The agents of change are almost always the people of the country and it is certainly the case in China.” The situation with massive protests on the streets of Hong Kong are certainly the evidence that the people are trying to change things when local government fails.

“The real test is are you helping the agents of change? And if you make some private representation in the back room of Foreign Ministry and nobody hears you it does not make any difference,” Roth told WPP.

He added, it does not make a sense to do it that way, especially when “the public presentation is a nice photo-op, smiling and shaking hands.”

Others say it is indeed about perception: One can imagine the message the public takes from that pictures having the UN Secretary General public cordiality toward leadership in Beijing as a clear sign of supporting the Chinese government. The only way to erase that impression is to say something publicly, but specific – not generic, and certainly not to put equal blame on on all sides.

Asked to comment on Ken Roth’s press conference and being very critical of the Secretary General,

Staphane Dujarric chief UN spokesperson talking to  reporters at daily press conference, January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdovioć - Webpublicapress 2020)

Staphane Dujarric chief UN spokesperson talking to reporters at daily press conference, January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdovioć – Webpublicapress 2020)

saying he had not spoken enough and directly on China’s repression against the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, Stephan Dujarric, chief UN spokesperson said they (UN) “were delighted that Mr. Roth chose the UN to launch his report, and we welcome everybody into this building.”

But he also said, the Secretary General, “on a number of occasions, raised a number of issues”. While visiting Beijing in 2019. Dujarric said, the UN chief raised the issues with his Chinese counterparts, including the situation in Xinjiang. Dujarric stressed his boss’ “position and his message is the same in public and in private.”

UN policy on China is based on three principles, the UN spokesperson said: “A full respect for the unity and territorial integrity of China, condemnation of terrorist attacks and that human rights must be fully respected in the fight against terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism.  Each community must feel that its identity is respected and it fully belongs to the nation as a whole.”

When it comes to Hong Kong, since 1997 China is trying to uphold the concept of “one country, two systems.” Thus, Hong Kong is recognized as a part of China, but with a different administrative and economic system. Massive pro-democracy movement in Hog Kong seeks a direct popular vote election for city’s chief executive, but official Beijing wants to keep its power with a Communist Party loyalist on top.

Two more years to improve 

“What is needed is to point public criticism to rise the cost of human rights violations. And we don’t see that coming out from the Secretary General’s office nearly enough,” Kenneth Roth said at the UNCA (United Nations Correspondents Association) Club, chose as a UN premises to deliver HRW Annual Report 2020.

Asked specifically by Webpublicapress reporter, should the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres consider run for a second mandate (his first term end of 2021), bearing in mind his ambiguity about Human Rights Roth didn’t reply immediately. But, shortly after sent his answer through UN Human Rights director Louis Charbonneau:

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (Photo by Erol Avdovic Webpublicapress)

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (Photo by Erol Avdovic Webpublicapress)

“Whether or not the secretary-general runs for a second term isn’t something we’d take a position on. We only ask that he start prioritizing human rights now in a way that he hasn’t done so far. He’s got two years left in his term, which is ample time to reverse course and make human rights a top priority and not an afterthought. He should start by regularly calling out governments clearly and publicly whenever warranted – including powerful ones like China, but also the US, Saudi Arabia and others,” said Kenneth Roth.

Critics agree this Secretary General does not want to make any completely independent move until he sees how the most powerful countries – first and foremost Washington – will react around China.

In December 2019, US President Donald Trump signed human rights legislation supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and US lawmakers followed by immediate passing the “Uighur Human Rights Policy Act.” It calls for targeted sanctions on certain members of the Chinese government. Although called upon Europe countries and European Union as a whole didn’t impose any sanctions to China. The unrest in Hong Kong and the ongoing minority oppression in Xinjiang, continues now for many months, credible media reports say.

Language needs to be changed

At the UN, Roth did not spare very harsh words of criticism when it came to Beijing authorities: “China has developed an Orwellian high-tech surveillance state and a sophisticated internet censorship system to monitor and suppress public criticism,” said Kenneth Roth in a HRW statement sent to UN correspondents in New York, just prior of launching of their annual Report. HRW suggests that if continue like this China will face grey future decades of impressive economic growth. And that will certainly impact the world.

“If not challenged, Beijing’s actions portend a dystopian future in which no one is beyond the reach

Chinese diplomat strongly protesting and rejacting the HRW launching its Annual Report 2020 focusing China; he criticize HRW among the other things failed to take in account of lifting more then 700 million Chinese citizens out of poverty. (Photo by Erol Avdović - Webpublicapress 14 January 2020.)

Chinese diplomat strongly protesting and rejacting the HRW launching its Annual Report 2020 focusing China; he criticize HRW among the other things failed to take in account of lifting more then 700 million Chinese citizens out of poverty. (Photo by Erol Avdović – Webpublicapress
14 January 2020.)

of Chinese censors, and an international human rights system so weakened that it no longer serves as a check on government repression,” said Roth.

He specifically pointed that Chinese government is now “trying to extend that censorship to therest of the world.” Roth said governments “need to act together to resist Beijing’s assault on the international human rights system.”

But the United Nations must put an end to the silence and practice of smooth, skillfully complex speech that does not oblige for change. They should simply say who is to blame and who is responsible for the abusing of Human Rights.

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