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India should quit the ‘cesspool of political bias’ that is the UNHRC

By Rahul Shivashankar
(Courtesy of Times of India)

UNHRC chief Michelle Bachelet has upped the ante against India. In September 2019, after being fed a coloured narrative she bemoaned the ‘’communication shutdown’’ and ‘’detention’’ of political leadership in J&K. Now, under her direction the UN rights panel has unprecedently sought to intervene as amicus curiae – friend of the court – to assist the court in adjudicating the constitutional validity of the CAA.

The UNHRC has justified its ‘‘meddling’’ stating that while the CAA has a “worthy and commendable objective’’ it discriminates against persecuted Muslims. Of course, the UNHRC is entitled to its view but the larger question is whether the panel’s expression of concern is worth the paper it is printed on.

For years now the UN Human Rights Council has been called into question for letting the world’s most notorious human rights violators secure the right to sit in judgment of others. Indeed, as things stand the UNHRC counts among its members such ‘upholders’ of human rights as Pakistan, Libya, Qatar, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan and Venezuela.

Let’s begin with Pakistan (the country that is most pleased by UNHRC chief Bachelet’s stance against India) which has not even complied fully with two important covenants – ICESCR and ICCPR – which, in addition to Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHDR), form the “International Bill of Human Rights.”

If Pakistan’s case is bad, consider the others. Libya is a failed state with a continuing history of sectarian and factional violence. The less said about Venezuela which is being investigated by the UNHRC itself for a wave of rampant political killings. According to reports, there have been 7,000 deaths between January 2018 and May 2019 that Caracas dismisses as “resistance to authority’’.

It’s a sign of India’s commitment to a rule based order that it has even chosen to dignify the UNHRC’s misplaced action with a response. But given the facts, the UNHRC ought to be put in its place. Perhaps India can borrow a page from the US handbook of punitive diplomacy. In 2018, Washington pulled out of the UNHRC calling it a “cesspool of political bias” that “makes a mockery of human rights”. As the facts bear witness only those with the most jaundiced disposition would complain if India were to come up with the exact same justification as the Americans to quit the panel and send a firm message.

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