SA's UN voting record under fire

Posted in Africa | 03-May-05 | Source: Mail & Guardian Online

South African President Thabo Mbeki
South Africa's hard won reputation as champion of human rights during the Mandela era is being undermined by government's voting record in the United Nations General Assembly's Third Committee (the body which covers human rights), The Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

The party's foreign affairs spokesperson, Douglas Gibson, said under president Thabo Mbeki, South Africa had repeatedly chosen to align itself with non-democratic regimes by voting not to take action on highly abusive states or by abstaining.

South Africa consistently voted in support of "no action" on Sudan, Belarus, and Zimbabwe, Gibson said in a statement.

"It has also supported the nomination of Libya and, most recently, Zimbabwe to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, as well as Sudan's continued presence on the Commission in 2004.

"South Africa also failed to object to the decision not to renew the mandate of the UN's Special Rapporteur to Sudan, Gerhart Baum."

This record was a clear indication that South Africa had fallen into line with other developing countries which did not vote on resolutions critical of human rights violations, but instead voted along regional and sub-regional lines.

"Pitso Montwedi, the head of human rights within South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs, stated last year that the 'African group remains unwavering in its total rejection of the country-specific resolutions within the UN'.

"The lack of willingness to finger specific countries is borne out of a belief that such resolutions undermine the sovereignty of the nation concerned. In the process, human rights take a back seat.

"Whatever happened to the noble sentiments expressed in President Mbeki's articulation of an African Renaissance and his strong support for Nepad, which has as its foundation principles of good governance and peer review?" - Sapa