Venezuela Says UN Human Rights Council Can Now Operate Without US ‘Disturbances’

By Patrick Goodenough | June 22, 2018 | 4:33am EDT
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza addresses the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2017. The Trump administration in announcing its exit cited the presence and conduct of countries like Venezuela, China and Cuba. (Screen capture: U.N. Webcast)

( – Venezuela’s Maduro regime says the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council means that the body is now free to operate without “disturbances” and “pressure” from the United States.

“The Bolivarian government of Venezuela highlights as a positive consequence that the Human Rights Council of the U.N. can now act without the disturbances, attempts of extortion and direct pressure from the main violator of human rights of humanity,” said foreign minister Jorge Arreaza.

The fact that autocracies with poor human rights records – like Venezuela and its close ally Cuba – are themselves members of the U.N.’s top human rights apparatus was among the key reasons cited for the U.S. decision to exit the Geneva-based HRC.

Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said such governments seek seats on the council to shield themselves from criticism while driving an agenda that targets Israel in particular for condemnation.

Of the current 47 members, 14 are countries which are graded “not free” in Freedom House’s annual rankings, based on scores for political rights and civil liberties. (They are Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.)

“Look at the council membership and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic human rights,” Haley said in Tuesday’s withdrawal announcement.

“These countries strongly resist any effort to expose their abusive practices. In fact, that’s why many of them run for a seat on the Human Rights Council in the first place: to protect themselves from scrutiny.”

Speaking alongside Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out Venezuela, China and Cuba as countries currently on the HRC despite having “authoritarian governments with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights records.”

Venezuela, however, said the U.S. was leaving because it could not deal with the criticism of other countries.

Accusing the U.S. of abuses ranging from waging war to conducting torture to expelling “millions of immigrants,” Arreaza said itcould not stand the scrutiny of an international democratic body, which did not conform to its claims of control and subordination.”

China’s foreign ministry said it regretted the U.S. decision to quit the council, but also criticized its behavior as a member.

“The U.S.’ attitude towards the HRC has aroused dissatisfaction from most countries around the world,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a briefing in Beijing. “The U.S. side knows it fully well.”

“The U.S. pointed fingers at the human rights conditions in China and other countries,” he said, adding that doing so was “in total disregard of facts.”

‘Trite and brazen cynicism’

Cuba has been an almost permanent fixture on the HRC since its creation in 2006, serving terms in 2006-2009, 2010-2012, 2014-2016 and now 2017-2019. The communist regime has used its seat to criticize the U.S. and Israel while promoting so-called “third generation rights” such as the right to economic self-determination, the right to development, and “international solidarity.”

There was no official response from Havana to the U.S. decision to exit, but its ambassador to the HRC, Pedro Luis Pedroso, used the opportunity of an address to the council on Thursday to level veiled criticism at the U.S.

He referred to “some countries” committing “constant human rights violations against migrants and refugees” and to an “escalation in the discourse of hatred, racism and xenophobia, particularly among politicians, authorities and public figures.”

Russia is not currently an HRC member but, like Cuba, has been one for most of the council’s 12-year existence.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow hoped the U.S. would rethink its decision to leave, but his ministry took an acerbic tone in its reaction to the decision, saying the U.S. departure showed “disrespect” for the HRC and “the United Nations as a whole.”

“We are surprised by the trite and brazen cynicism of our American colleagues, who are stubbornly refusing to admit huge human rights problems in their own country while endlessly trying to rehash the council to fit in with their own political interests, and these interests only,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a briefing.

“Attempts to forcefully impose the extremely specific U.S. understanding of human rights on other countries is in itself a gross violation of universal human values and civilized norms of conduct on the international arena,” she said.

Zakharova said no-one was “gloating” over the U.S. decision not to take part in the HRC, but also said that the council “was already successful without the United States [when the Bush administration shunned it from 2006-2009] and will be able to do so in the future.”

“Gloating” was, however, evident in the reaction from Iran, which is not a member of the HRC.

“The U.S. exit from the U.N. Human Rights Council is regarded as cheerful news by all the countries which see human rights as a behavioral value far from double standards and covers for terrorist activities,” the state news agency IRNA cited the regime’s human rights chief, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, as saying.

The HRC, he said, was not a place for countries with human rights records as poor as that of the U.S.

The Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), charged that the U.S. was leaving the HRC because it could no longer defend itself from condemnation of its own record.

“The self-proclaimed human rights defender has exposed its human rights ‘myth’ with its own deeds and since it cannot defend itself anymore, it just wants to bail out,” it said in a commentary.

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