They’re doing it again. This time so called human rights advocates have raised hullaballoo regarding the Russia’s place in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). A group of over 80 aid and human rights organizations have urged the United Nations to vote Russia off the top rights body because of its actions in the Syrian conflict. The October 24 statement asked voting delegations to consider that «Russia’s actions in Syria stand in clear contrast to its rhetorical commitment to human rights». The UN General Assembly is to select new members for the body on October 28 to fill 14 seats, with Russia, Hungary and Croatia are vying for two seats representing the Eastern European group at the Council. The UN body’ membership is organized under regional groups.
It’s worth to have a closer look at the organizations that make up this coalition. The list of signatories is reported to include Human Rights Watch, CARE International and several Syrian non-governmental organizations (NGO).
Syrian NGOs with HQs located abroad? It’s well known that many of them are represented by one person who has no access to the real situation in Syria. For example, the most frequently cited one – The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) - is run by Rami Abdulrahman (pseudonym Osama Suleiman), a Syrian Sunni Muslim who owns a clothes shop. He left Syria in 2000 and lives in Coventry now. Can the news he spreads around be considered as reliable information received on the spot? Any person, who has left Syria, no matter what were the reasons, can be considered as a «Syrian NGO». No «Syrian NGO» was mentioned in the report published by The Independent, the media outlet that reported the news first, but it does not matter. Few of them, if any, can provide reliable information on what is taking place in Syria.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a well-known US-founded international NGO that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. It has always been hostile to Russia. It’s record includes praises sung to glorify Chechen terrorists.
The organization blasts each and every thing Russia does or says. HRW has been criticized for bias by the national governments and by its own founder and former chairman, Robert L. Bernstein. Contrary to what it claims, its income comes from government funded foundations and the people like George Soros, who donated $100 million in 2010. Along with Georg Soros’ Open Society Foundations, HRW is among least transparent organization in the United States.
Activists have charged the organization with having a «revolving door» relationship with the US government. According to Keane Bhatt, an activist residing in Washington, DC., «A revolving-door policy as pertains to Human Rights Watch is one in which high-level US foreign policy staff — those who have crafted and executed US foreign policy - are allowed into Human Rights Watch as staffers, advisory committee members, and as board members. These people can wield an enormous as influence on the priorities and advocacy of HRW».
For example, Tom Malinowski served as the senior director of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, then as HRW’s Washington director, and then assistant secretary of state for President Obama.
In 2014, two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and over 100 academics, journalists, and human rights activists questioned the HRW activities in a letter.
«HRW's close ties to the US government call into question its independence,» the letter states. «It’s impartiality is seriously doubted. For instance, it turns a blind eye on the human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia and other America allies», the document notes.
In contrast, CARE International is not so much politicized as HRW. It does much more fighting poverty around the world, so its voice has more weight. But its evidently biased stance on Syria is not a feather in the hat of the organization. It puts the blame for everything going wrong solely on Syria’s President Bashar Assad. The watchdog never mentions Western air strikes hitting wrong targets «by mistake» and things like that.
Russia won three-year seats on the Geneva-based UNHRC in 2013. No country is eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. If elected, Russia will be represented in the 47-nation Council for three years, starting from 2017 till 2019.There is little the Council can do in pure practical terms. Losing a seat does not mean much for Russia. It does not affect its far more important activities in the UN Security Council and other UN agencies. Anyway, the letter signed by 80 humanitarian groups will not have any influence on the results of the vote.
The Independent article and other reports are nothing but an element of information war waged against Russia.
True, Syria is in dire straits today and the best way to address the problem is to launch an international joint effort, as Russia proposes, instead of putting the blame on Moscow for striking «good guys» or «moderate» opposition to President Bashar Assad. No «good terrorists» worth to be supported by supplies and information campaigns exist. Civilian suffering is an inevitable part of operations, as the ongoing fight in Mosul shows. But in the case of Aleppo, Russia and the Syrian government get all the blame with the NGOs acting as propaganda pawns. The human rights activists would be much more helpful providing real help to the Syrians who need it than by signing letters and petitions that have no whatsoever relation to reality.