Obama’s charm sinks NZ’s UN human rights bid

The Green Party is concerned that the Government’s withdrawal from its bid for a UN Human Rights Council seat reflects a weakening commitment to human rights issues.

New Zealand had been campaigning actively since last year to make it on the UN Human Rights Council – a body

New Zealand played an active role in setting up. The move today to withdraw its bid was in order to allow the United States a chance to take a seat on this council. Until Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced New Zealand’s pull out, it looked likely the bid would have succeeded.

“We appreciate that handing over the seat to the US does give President Obama an opportunity to engage with global human rights issues more than his predecessor, George Bush,” said the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke.

“US membership of the Council will not necessary mean that it will, in Mr McCully’s words ‘respond robustly and effectively to human rights violations wherever they occur’.

President Obama’s decision earlier this year to close Guantanamo Bay was welcomed by the Green Party, however there is still no guarantee those who have been imprisoned there will get a fair trial. The new administration still upholds the extraordinary rendition process, where prisoners are shipped to countries where often they can be tortured.

The Obama Government also appears to have a blind spot when it comes to addressing Israel’s human rights violations in the Palestinian territories, which is one of the issues on the Council’s current agenda.

“In their own geopolitical interest, the US gives strong and largely uncritical backing to dictatorships, from Saudi Arabia to Egypt,” said Mr Locke.

“Mr McCully seems to be underestimating the role a small nation like New Zealand can play on the world stage.

“There will also be some disappointment among countries that have backed us for a Council seat, knowing our consistent record on human rights issues.”

Link to 2008 press release about NZ’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council;