Towards the end of last year the South African government was embroiled in a nasty slinging match with human rights NGO’s over its pro-totalitarian voting record (see South Africa's depraved Foreign Policy exposed) at the United Nations (UN). In typical fashion, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded not by addressing the concerns raised, but by maligning the messengers by accusing UN Watch and Human Rights Watch (HRW) of being the part of a racist Western anti-South Africa conspiracy.
Yesterday, I was sent a copy of Human Rights Watch's official response to these accusations—a scathing letter to Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad comprehensively detailing South Africa’s consistent failure to defend Human Rights at the UN.
The letter thoroughly debunks South Africa’s lame excuse that its voting record is the result of a technical position that only the UN Human Rights Council should be allowed to deal with human rights issues. HRW explains that the promotion of human rights is indivisible from international peace, security and development (the major other areas of UN concern). Ironically, this was a position that the ANC championed during the days of the global campaign against Apartheid and more recently in response to advancing economic development in the developing world.
The hypocrisy of the government’s position is further exposed by the fact that South Africa has failed to follow through on its rhetoric by pressing for action on human rights violations at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). In fact, it has been at the forefront of opposing the advancement of international human rights at the UNHRC. Examples include the following (many of which we have previously covered):
|South Africa’s role on Darfur|
Human rights violations in Iran and Uzbekistan
The scope of UNHRC Human Rights Experts
As we have said on numerous occasions, South Africa’s behavior at the UN is a disgrace. It is unfathomable to me how willingly this government has chosen to betray its own commitment to promoting human rights. Even if one looks at it from a realpolitik perspective, I can’t see what we could possibly get from supporting Burma et al to justify this.