Anticipating the new UN Human Rights Council

For immediate release
April 12, 2006, 12:00 EDT

Contact in Munich, Germany: World Uyghur Congress +49 89 54321999

Contact In Washington, DC: Uyghur American Association +1 202 349 1496

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Uyghur American Association (UAA) are anxious to see how effective the re-structured United Nations Human Rights Council will be in holding the People’s Republic of China (PRC) accountable for grave and persistent human rights violations.

The Council’s predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, was commendably adept at collecting credible evidence of human rights violations in the PRC, and elsewhere throughout the world. However, the Commission was constituted in such a way that allowed the world’s more determined human rights violators to exploit loop-holes and procedures to escape any public criticism or censure whatsoever.

The WUC and UAA share the frustrations of numerous other NGOs that the Chinese government not only had no apparent regard for the intended function and principles of Human Rights Commission itself, but also refused to consider the validity of any criticism of its human rights record.

“For the Uyghur people, watching representatives of the Chinese government simply using the Commission to dismiss as ‘groundless’ any fully proven reports of severe human rights violations was extremely distressing,” said Erkin Alptekin, President of the WUC. “We are hoping that the new Human Rights Council will be the beginning of the end of that impunity. This would not just be for the benefit of the Uyghur people, but for all people everywhere who suffer violations of their fundamental human rights at the hands of an authority which refuses to be accountable to its own people, never mind the rest of the world.”

There is a prevalent sense of disappointment among human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that the new Human Rights Council could have been constituted in a way which would have made it far more effective in protecting human rights than it currently appears to be.

However, the WUC and UAA are, for the time being, primarily concerned that the new Council should not be as prone to being undermined and politically co-opted as the Commission became – often a result of Chinese obstructionism. Both the WUC and UAA are keen to see that the new Council will at the very least avoid any possibility of member states hiding behind administrative procedures or using other means to stop accusations of human rights violations even being raised before the Council.

“It’s high time that the government of the PRC began taking seriously the growing international concerns about the deteriorating state of human rights in the country,” said Nury Turkel, President of the UAA. “We certainly hope that the government chooses to use – rather than abuse – the new Human Rights Council; it will be a crucial test at a crucial time of how highly the PRC prioritizes human rights in reality as opposed to the currently abstract notion of human rights protections written into the Constitution.”

The WUC and the UAA are hoping that at the very least the new Human Rights Council will provide a commonly acceptable forum for the free and open discussion of information on internationally recognizedhuman rights. Any attempt to use the Council in order to conceal or simply reject well-founded allegations ofhuman rights violations will only compound and entrench the suffering of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Beyond the immediate hope that the PRC will fully respect the function and principles of the new Human RightsCouncil, the WUC and the UAA add their voices to the growing number of human rights NGOs calling on the government of the PRC to offer its full and unconditional co-operation with UN human rights mechanisms such as the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religious belief; to give a clear indication of when it intends to finally ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and to commit to improvements in human rightsprotections as idenjtified and recommended by UN experts, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on torture.