Human Rights and
International Democratic Solidarity

Research Reports

December 30, 2005

Index of International Commitment to Human Rights

By Fernando J. Ruiz
@fejaruiz
 

Author: Mariel Julio
Editor: Fernando Ruiz

About the authors:

Mariel Alejandra Julio
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, specializing in International Politics (Universidad de Buenos Aires) and Lawyer, specializing in International Public Law (Universidad de Buenos Aires).
She was human rights advisor to the OAS during 2005.
Member of the team that represented the Universidad de Buenos Aires School of Law in the 15th French-speaking competition of simulations of International Humanitarian Law, international crime, International Penal Law, refugees, transnational terrorism and the applicability of Human Rights in tense situations or national conflicts. Organized by the French institution "Comité pour le Concours Jean Pictet" and the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva), it took place in Jesolo - Venice, Italy, between the 22nd and 30th of March, 2003.Mariel Alejandra Julio

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, specializing in International Politics (Universidad de Buenos Aires) and Lawyer, specializing in International Public Law (Universidad de Buenos Aires).
She was human rights advisor to the OAS during 2005.
Member of the team that represented the Universidad de Buenos Aires School of Law in the 15th French-speaking competition of simulations of International Humanitarian Law, international crime, International Penal Law, refugees, transnational terrorism and the applicability of Human Rights in tense situations or national conflicts. Organized by the French institution "Comité pour le Concours Jean Pictet" and the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva), it took place in Jesolo - Venice, Italy, between the 22nd and 30th of March, 2003.

Fernando Javier Ruiz
Fernando.Ruiz@fci.austral.edu.ar
Advisor to the Democratic Strengthening Area of the Centre for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL). Ph.D. in Public Communication from the University of Navarra Degree in Political Science from the Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA).
Professor at the Seminars on Journalism and Democracy and on History and Culture of Communications, at the Austral University School of Communications.

Author of the following books:

  • Otra grieta en la pared: Informe y testimonios de la nueva prensa cubana, 2003,(Another crack in the wall: Reports and testimonies of the new Cuban press) CADAL / Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
  • Las palabras son acciones: historia política y profesional del diario La Opinión de Jacobo Timerman, (Words are action: Political & professional history of the La Opinión newspaper belonging to Jacobo Timerman ), 1971-77, Perfil Libros, Buenos Aires, 2001.
  • El señor de los mercados. Ambito Financiero, la City y el poder del periodismo económico,(The master of the markets: Ambito Financiero, the City & the power of the financial press), El Ateneo, Buenos Aires, 2005.

Executive Summary

  • Mexico is the country with the highest international commitment to human rights (with a total of 11 points on the IICHR).
  • Ethiopia, with -6 points on the IICHR, is the country with least international commitment to human rights.
  • In comparison to the 2004 IICHR, the countries that most improved their scores were South Africa and Saudi Arabia. The country that experienced the greatest decline in its score was Australia. On the other hand, Argentina and Mauritania maintain the same positions as last year.
  • The Arab-Israeli conflict is the issue that generates the highest consensus on violations of human rights. The resolution on Israeli settlements is in first place (62 points), followed by the question of human rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan (41 points).
  • The draft resolutions that generated least consensus were the two that refer to the island of Cuba: the draft that condemns the situation of the detainees on the United States' naval base of Guantánamo (this draft was rejected by the Commission with -51 points) and the draft that refers to the government of Cuba's violation of human rights (-7 points).
  • The presence of "not free" states on the Commission on Human Rights increases year after year. If we use Freedom House's annual survey that classifies countries in "free", "partly free" and "not free" categories as a reference, we can see that the percentage of "free" countries amounts to less than half the Member States. "Free" states account for 41.51%, "partly free" states make up 30.19% and the remaining 28.30% are classified as "not free".
  • According to another classification that Freedom House carries out of electoral democracies and non-democracies, the proportion of non-democratic countries on the Commission has increased. While 39.62% countries were non-democratic in 2004, this proportion has risen to 41.51% in 2005 and 2006.
  • The composition for the 2006 session has already been defined and shows that only 43.4% of the Member States are considered to be "free", while 56.6% are labeled "partly free" or "not free".
  • In general, based on this indicator, we can state that there is a correlation between the situation of human rights at a national level and the international commitment to human rights. The group that is made up of "free" and "partly free" states sums up 77% of the IICHR score. However, there are outstanding individual cases of countries that are well-ranked but whose internal policies are clearly non-democratic (for instance, Saudi Arabia).

To ignore, reject or support victims of human rights violations

There is a moment in the international community's annual agenda when the situation of the victims of human rights violations is formally analyzed by more than fifty states of the international community. This instant in the international agenda is what we intensely want to shed light on and retain. For the victims' sake.

In this sense, this report is carried out because the votes of the states of the Commission of Human Rights of the United Nations (UN) are very important to the victims whose basic rights are being violated.

The foreign policies of states are increasingly complex and cannot be correlated with their votes on this Commission. But to condemn, reject or abstain are actions that Member States can take to help (or not) improve the genuine conditions of victims.

Even though a state that condemns may, at the same time, violate human rights within its borders, or even though that same State takes other foreign policy actions that contradict that vote on the Commission on Human Rights.

Mariel Julio was responsible for researching and writing this report. Hernán Alberro and Gabriel Salvia, Directors of CADAL, participated in the editing process. This report was first carried out in 2004.

Fernando J. Ruiz Editor

Introduction

The results of the 2005 ranking of the Index of International Commitment to Human Rights show that something is wrong with the composition of the Commission that meets every year in Geneva and/or that the majority of democratic counties have contradictory stances regarding the defense of fundamental rights. If not, how can it be that democratic countries such as Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Holland, Great Britain, Italy, United States and Australia all fall under the classification of "low international commitment to human rights", together with dictatorships such as China, Cuba and Zimbabwe?

Certainly, there are democratic countries that negotiate their international commitment to human rights and abstain from condemning governments that violate human rights due to bonds of political friendship that join them, or because they prioritize trade relations. In 2004, Chile, for example, ranked number one on the IICHR, but abstained from condemning China, a country with which it had signed a free trade treaty.

On the other hand, if countries governed by dictatorships increase their participation in this Commission year after year, it is likely that the future editions of this index will place them in the highest positions on the ranking of international commitment to human rights. And this paradox could occur because the bloc of dictatorships may introduce resolutions (well-founded or not) and increasingly limit presentations that condemn those who effectively violate human rights, as occurred in 2005 in comparison to 2004 (during the last year, no resolutions condemning China, Zimbabwe and Turkmenistan were introduced, for example).

In this respect, the non-governmental organization UN Watch recently criticized the new Commission on Human Rights (CHR) because among the members of the 2006 session, there are countries such as Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, who are considered to be disrespectful of human rights. In order to understand what we mean, note that Saudi Arabia is ranked 2nd in the 2005 ranking of International Commitment to Human Rights.

The aforementioned NGO pointed out that of the recently-formed CHR, which will celebrate its 62nd annual period of sessions from the 13th of March to the 21st of April, 2006, "55 per cent of its members have failed to accept democratic standards and, in turn., 30 per cent of them are regimes that systematically violate basic political rights and civil liberties". Examples of such countries are Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Zimbabwe. The NGO also notes that there are other countries such as Armenia, Bangladesh, Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria and Venezuela, where it is considered that civil liberties and democratic rights are not fully exercised.

Therefore, it is foreseen that the 2006 Commission could be the last one because it may be replaced by a new organ, whose composition and objectives are still under negotiation. In reference to this, in September 2005, during the World Summit that gathered in New York, the Member States of the UN decided to substitute this controversial organism for a new, more efficient one when it comes to reviewing the situation of human rights in the world, but negotiators disagree on aspects of size and mandate.

Last November, 38 NGOs took joint action and through UN Watch requested that the new Council meet on a regular basis, and not only a number of weeks a year, and that the countries that constitute it have a solid record of respect for human rights, besides from being elected by two-thirds of the General Assembly.

Undoubtedly, an objective parameter (such as the aforementioned record, perhaps) is required to address cases of human rights violations in an international environment. But there is no doubt that it is a disgrace that the Commission includes and accepts introductions of resolutions of condemnations from countries such as Cuba, where pacific opponents are sentenced to long terms in prison for owning copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, considered to be "enemy propaganda or subversive material" in that country.

Gabriel C. Salvia
General Director (CADAL)

Fernando J. Ruiz
Fernando J. Ruiz
Doctor en Comunicación Pública por la Universidad de Navarra y Licenciado en Ciencias Políticas, Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA). Profesor e investigador tiempo completo de Periodismo y Democracia e Historia de la Comunicación en la Facultad de Comunicación de la Universidad Austral (Argentina). Es autor de los libros “Las palabras son acciones: historia política y profesional del diario La Opinión de Jacobo Timerman, 1971-77”, “Otra grieta en la pared: informe y testimonios de la nueva prensa cubana”, “El señor de los mercados. Ambito Financiero, la City y el poder del periodismo económico”. Es el presidente del Foro de Periodismo Argentino (Fopea).
Twitter: @fejaruiz