From 22 to 26 May High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet conducted a successful mission to China in order to further strengthen cooperation with OHCHR, human rights experts and mechanisms. As stipulated in her mandate, she offered advisory services and technical assistance with a view to advancing the transparent implementation of China’s human rights obligations.
Pursuant to her terms of reference, Bachelet was guided by “the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, in the spirit of constructive international dialogue and cooperation.” On 28 May at Guangzhou Bachelet made a comprehensive and nuanced end-of-mission statement, reflecting her commitment “to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic jurisdiction of States”. She thanked the Chinese authorities for their cooperation and acknowledged the progress achieved by China in bringing millions of Chinese out of poverty and gradually improving the enjoyment of human rights throughout the country and supporting the implementation of the right to development in the world. She also expressed concern about a number of outstanding issues and established a working group to follow up.
On 10 June 2022 a number of UN rapporteurs issued an unprecedented press release indirectly criticising the High Commissioner for not being more forthcoming on allegations of genocide in Xinjiang and urging China “to address specific and systematic human rights violations”, enable a “credible” international investigation and “grant unhindered access to independent experts”. Such a statement is highly unusual and raises the question whether the rapporteurs were acting in conformity with their code of conduct that commits them to “impartiality and even-handedness” (Art. 8).
In past sessions UN rapporteurs have been called to order for exceeding their mandates and failing to observe article 6 of the code which requires them to “seek to establish the facts, based on objective, reliable information emanating from relevant credible sources and to take into account in a comprehensive and timely manner, in particular information provided by the State concerned.” China has provided such information, which some rapporteurs evidently ignored when drafting their statement of 10 June.
As a former Independent Expert on International Order (2012–18), I do not recall any comparable statement being issued concerning gross and systematic violations of human rights in countries such as the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, etc. Such blatant double-standards undermine the authority and credibility of the rapporteurs.
On 13 June, the 50th session of the HR Council opened with Bachelet’s unexpected announcement that she would not seek a second term. In the Council room and in the internet some ngo’s engaged in a mobbing action against Bachelet, which is clearly contrary to the conduct required of ngo’s in order to enjoy consultative status. It is time for the HR Council to formalize a code of conduct for ngo’s and ensure that it is enforced. Indeed, some ngo’s have issued defamatory statements that would justify stripping them of their status.
On 14 June sixty-nine States joined in a statement to the Council opposing interference in China’s internal affairs. The statement was read by the representative from Cuba, recalling the clear language of article 2(7) of the UN Charter, stipulating that “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”
Also on 14 June China’s Permanent Representative Chen Xu stated that multilateral human rights mechanisms should serve as a platform for cooperation and dialogue, rather than a venue for division and confrontation. He regretted that in recent years “the Human Rights Council has become increasingly politicized and confrontational, and disinformation has become rampant.”
Discussions at the Council once again demonstrate that some States, ngo’s and even some UN rapporteurs do not understand the mandate of the Council or the HC’s functions under GA Resolution 48/141. The HC’s vocation is not “naming and shaming”, nor does she undertake country visits for propaganda purposes or to advance the geopolitical agendas of certain countries. Bachelet has always taken a result-oriented approach so as to ensure progress where it matters – not in the media, but in the actual enjoyment of human rights by real people, including in China.
As a former UN Independent Expert, I too decry the growing politicization of United Nations institutions and the “weaponization” of human rights to demonise geopolitical rivals and pursue agendas incompatible with the letter and spirit of the UN Charter.
Notwithstanding the vulgar instrumentalization of human rights by some States, ngo's and rapporteurs, it is important to reaffirm that Bachelet’s mission to China was a successful exercise in the best traditions of the United Nations, consistent with the guiding principles and purposes of the UN – notably peace, human rights and development. •
* Professor Alfred de Zayas, US and Swiss national, was UN Independent Expert on International Order 2012–18 and is author of 11 books including “Building a Just World Order”https://www.claritypress.com/product/building-a-just-world-order/.
“In this collection of essays, former UN Independent Expert on International Order, Professor Alfred de Zayas, takes mainstream disinformation, fake news, censorship and self-censorship head-on. Stressing the importance of access to information and to a genuinely pluralistic spectrum of views as indispensable to every functioning democracy, de Zayas provides an insightful counter-narrative, shedding light on the key issues facing humanity today.” (Blurb)
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