UN Human Rights Council Silent on Sri Lanka Bombings That Targeted Christians

Patrick Goodenough | April 24, 2019 | 4:21am EDT
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The Human Rights Council chamber in Geneva stands empty. (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) has not condemned or otherwise reacted to the suicide bombings targeting churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the most important day of the Christian calendar.

With the death toll in the bombings having risen to above 320, according to Sri Lankan authorities, the White House has called them “one of the deadliest terrorist events since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.” A UNICEF spokesman says at least 45 children are among the dead.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attacks in a tweet posted on Sunday morning (U.S. Eastern Time).

Almost two days later the U.N. human rights office in Geneva, led by high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet, posted a tweet saying it stands with the people of Sri Lanka “in mourning & solidarity as they bury those who died in Sunday’s abhorrent attacks on churches and hotels.”

There has been no public reaction from the U.N.’s top human rights body, the HRC, however.

U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, a leading monitor and critic of the world body, noted that the HRC has called no urgent sessions, adopted no resolutions, and established no commissions of inquiry in response to the atrocity.

The HRC is not currently in session in Geneva – its last regular session ended on March 22 and the next one is scheduled to begin on June 24 – but it is empowered to called emergency “special sessions” to address urgent issues that arise at other times.

Special sessions are convened at the behest of at least one-third of the HRC’s 47 members.

HRC spokesman Rolando Gomez confirmed from Geneva that as of early Wednesday, “No formal request for a council special session on Sri Lanka has been submitted as of yet.”

He noted that one-third of the membership (16 member-states), must support any request for a special session to be held.

Since the HRC’s establishment in 2006, it has held a total of 28 special sessions. Of those, Israel has been targeted eight times, more than any other country.

None of the 28 special sessions has focused specifically on the plight of Christian minorities around the world.

(One in 2015, responding to Boko Haram’s violent campaign in Nigeria, did include in a resolution one reference to “minority religious and ethnic groups” being among the Islamist terrorist group’s victims. Another, on the ISIS campaign in 2014, mentioned in a resolution that “Christians and Yazidis” were among the minorities particularly targeted by the terrorists.)

Neuer compared the HRC silence on the Sri Lanka bombings to U.N. human rights bodies’ swift reaction in past years to the deaths of a leader and sympathizers of the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas.

When Israel in a March 2004 air strike killed Hamas founder and spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin, within 24 hours the HRC’s predecessor, the U.N. Commission of Human Rights, “called a special session to glorify the mass murderer and to condemn Israel,” said Neuer, who recalled that he was present at that meeting and “will never forget it.”

In 2010, Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists to Hamas-ruled Gaza. In ensuing clashes nine Turkish activists were killed. (Four of them were members of a Turkish group known by the acronym IHH, which is part of an Islamic “charitable” network that was designated by the U.S. government in 2008 for funding Hamas.)

Neuer recalled that, again within 24 hours of that incident, the HRC “called an urgent debate for the next day, condemned Israel, and established a commission of inquiry.” (On that occasion no special session was called, since the council was already in regular session, but it did reshuffle its agenda to accommodate the urgent debate.)

“The refusal of the U.N.’s top human rights body to say or do anything on Sri Lanka’s Easter massacre underscores yet again how the U.N. treats innocent slaughtered Christians worse than it treats terrorists,” Neuer charged.

The most recent previous major terror attack targeting places of worship was the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last month. An Australian white supremacist is on trial for the attack, which killed 50 Muslims.

The HRC was in session when the mosque attack occurred, and observed a minute of silence for the victims.

It did not call a special meeting on the Christchurch attack, but it featured prominently during a pre-scheduled debate that day on “the mitigation and countering of rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies.”

This year’s HRC membership includes 14 countries (out of a total of 47) that are graded “not free” by the democracy watchdog Freedom House. Fifteen of the council members are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

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