Between June 21 and June 28, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on major setbacks on human rights taking place in a number of different countries, including several in Latin America. “To recover from the biggest and most serious setbacks in human rights that we have ever seen, we must have a life-changing vision and concerted action to put it into practice,” Bachelet told members of the Human Rights Council in the first week of three of the 47th session of the UNHRC.
The High Commissioner is almost right. Almost.
There are violations of human rights in Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua. And much worse in Venezuela and Iran, which perpetrated the horrible bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina 25 years ago and the AMIA bombing 27 years ago, and still today justice has not been served in both cases. But it is very curious that the High Commissioner puts every tragedy in one bag.
Venezuela has been a dictatorship for more than two decades and has created (according to U.N. information) the second largest humanitarian crisis in the world in the last ten years after Syria, which has the first place. More than 5 million Venezuelans have fled from their country due to misery, poverty and ongoing violations of human rights. What has any U.N. High Commissioner, including the present one, done to stop the ongoing tragedy in Venezuela, except for an isolated speech here and there against the Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro? Selectivity in human rights violations is a major setback of effectiveness and fairness in the UNHRC.
Bachelet is alarmed at the “high level of political violence” during the campaign for the Mexican legislative elections held at the beginning of June. “At least 91 politicians and party members, including 36 electoral candidates, were assassinated during the electoral period that began in September 2020,” Bachelet said. It is unfortunately certain and reprehensible. But like it or not, Mexico is not Venezuela. Mexico is a democracy with flaws, but a democratic country for more than a century.
Bachelet also addressed the wave of anti-government protests that broke out at the end of April in Colombia. "My office has expressed grave concern over allegations of serious human rights violations by the security forces,” she said.
Yes, there were riots in the streets and there were 59 civilians and two policemen dead. Riots were not peaceful as the High Commissioner said, and Colombia, which is a democracy, after several days of violence, addressed the confrontation and installed a negotiating table between the government and the leaders of the riots. Nothing even similar could take place in Venezuela or Iran, so, again, it is a very harmful mistake to put everything in one basket.
Bachelet also stressed that in Colombia, “although the majority of demonstrations were peaceful, there were some episodes of violence” and encouraged “dialogue to resolve the crisis.” Dialogue is what is going on these days, something that is unthinkable not only in Venezuela but also in Nicaragua. Colombian President Duque suffered an attack against his helicopter when he was on an official mission with his closest aides on June 29, but even this very serious incident did not stop the negotiations with the civil society to keep the democratic dialogue in Colombia.
Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan dictator, has decided to have elections by the end of this year but in the meantime, he is sending every possible candidate to jail, and other candidates have fled the country due to the persecution. Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, fear defeat in November. Although he still leads the Sandinista party, rather than adhere to its socialist past, Ortega has, since 2007, ruled with nepotism and dynastic pretensions. While taking control of the legislature, the judiciary and the electoral authority and muzzling the media, he kept support among the poor with social programs paid for by Venezuela. When this dried up, austerity prompted a national uprising in 2018 and more than 300 people were murdered. Will the Ortegas get away with this? The Organization of American States (OAS) has condemned the persecution of political leaders. Bachelet has also condemned the farce of an election the Ortegas are preparing, but at the end of the day, Nicaragua and Venezuela receive condemnations and sanctions, but stay still because Iran or some big powers, and sometimes both together, help these rogue dictatorships to stay in power and of course, for Iran, Venezuela is a “democratic friend.”
Why did we write in the beginning of this article that the High Commissioner is “almost right” when she speaks out about violation of human rights all over the world? Mixing riots in democratic countries with crimes in dictatorships is not a fair way to expose the weak and poor situation of human rights. We fully agree that from the Office of the High Commissioner, violations of human rights are denounced. But it is far from enough to selectively denounce human rights violations.
Serial human rights abusers in Latin American can say with high hypocrisy that the allegations against their governments are “illegal interference in their internal affairs,” but the truth of the matter is that the allegations show the unacceptable and cruel reality their people are suffering.
What the U.N. and the High Commissioner can't forget is that terrorism must be strongly condemned, and the fact that there was no mention of the terrorist attacks with rockets from Hamas to the Israeli civilians in the most recent conflict, was a dangerous form of incitement. Worse, there was a rude comment from the High Commissioner against the “Israeli disproportionate use of force.”
These are the U.N. attitudes and comments that erodes, day after day, the credibility of this international U.N. agency. Why is the High Commissioner loud and clear with some dictatorships, but when Israel is defending its citizens from a terrorist attack, the disproportion comes from the attacked country and not from the aggressor?
This narrative harms the necessary credibility that the international agencies must have to combat the evil of dictatorships violating human rights. Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, all of them are aware that there can be investigations and speeches about their regimes, but at the same time, they are also aware that after the speeches and maybe some sanctions, they will keep their power fully. Without credibility and trust, the future will be more and more speeches, no real sanctions and more impunity.
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