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UN Week 12/17/12

January 18, 2013

January 18, 2013

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone. 

John and Douglas Carey, Editors

In this issue: The downfall of Susan Rice; OIC on women’s rights.

In time, the full story of how Ambassador Rice was forced to take herself out of consideration for appointment as US Secretary of State may be revealed. For now, there are only straws in the wind. One such is her statement issued on November 27th by the US Mission to the UN. Here it is:

”Today, Acting CIA Director Michael Morell and I  met with Senators McCain, Graham, and Ayotte to discuss my September 16th public comments regarding the attack against the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and the intelligence assessments that formed the basis for those comments. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues directly and constructively with them.

“In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi. While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved. We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the Administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved.

“The Administration remains committed to working closely with Congress as we thoroughly investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi and bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the tragic deaths of our colleagues, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. We also look forward to the findings of the Accountability Review Board and the FBI investigation.”

Ambassador Rice dutifully fell on her sword by asking not to be considered as Hillary Clinton’s successor at State, and it is to be hoped that her reward will be fair recompense. Maybe she should run as Hillary’s Vice President.

The OIC on women’s rights.

The newly formed Independent Permanent Human Rights Commis-sion of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was discussed on December 14th by  Rizwan Saeed Sheikh, Director of Cultural Affairs at the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation General Secretariat.

Pointing out that the 57-member organization had recently adopted a plan of action that would soon see the establishment in Cairo of a centre on women’s rights, he said the Commission was created in 2008 by a mandate in the OIC’s Charter to, among other things, prepare the Organization for the twenty-first century.  The Commission was made up of 18 members — six each from the African, Asian and Arab regions — nominated by their respective Governments and elected by the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, he said, emphasizing the body’s independent nature.

Also at the Press conference was Commission Chair Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, who said that among the body’s members were advocates, lawyers, academics and others with experience working in New York and Geneva in the area of human rights.  She herself is a sociology professor at the State Islamic University of Yogyakarta in Indonesia.

“This expertise will allow the Commission to work very effectively with OIC Member States in assessing and helping them strengthen efforts to promote and protect human rights in their respective countries,” she said, noting that the Commission was also expected to work with those Member States in the area of legislation, as well as with civil society and regional organizations.  In 2012, it had held two formal meetings and met informally in working groups, she added.

Tasks at hand included conducting a dialogue on civilizations, particularly removing misconceptions of the compatibility and incompatibility of Islam and international human rights principles, she said. Substantive work would begin by the end of December, with working groups focusing on priority areas, including on issues hindering women’s rights, such as poverty, domestic violence and the rise in conservatism and fundamentalism in certain countries. Part of the work would be to collect human rights legislation from Member States and find best practices that could be applied else-where.

Answering another question on the Rohingya people facing sectarian violence in Bangladesh and Myanmar, Mr. Sheikh said the Commission had been mandated to advise the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on the issue and would be conducting a fact-finding mission to Myanmar. The Commission had not yet examined yesterday’s European Human Rights Court decision finding the United States in violation of extraordinary rendition of a German citizen, Mr. Sheikh said, answering another question.

Answering a question on women’s rights, Ms. Dzuhayatin explained that various interpretations of Islam were discussed in the context of how a cultural perspective influenced the way people practiced Islam with, for instance, the issue of child marriage.  In that area, many Member States were now working on adjusting their legislation to reflect child rights, she said, noting that now the moderate view would agree that it was better to abide by child rights and raise the age of marriage to 18.

One reporter wondered, since the OIC had a “very commendable record” on protecting the most innocent and helpless – unborn children – and fighting for that issue at the United Nations, would the Organization be in a position to inform its members when some United Nations agencies, such as the Human Rights Council and the World Health Organization (WHO), went beyond their mandates and proposed abortion.

In response, Mr. Sheikh said the issue had not been brought to the Human Rights Council and perhaps the Commission would conduct an objective analysis of the issue and pronounce itself on it.  As such, the topic had not been discussed. Ms. Dzuhayatin pointed out that the issue would be addressed under the Commission’s reproductive rights discussions.

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