South Africa has rejected a United Nations Watch (UNW) report which ranked its human rights record at the UN as one of the worst in the world.
In response, the Department of Foreign Affairs was adamant that the promotion and protection of human rights remains one of the pillars of South Africa’s foreign policy and has claimed that the UN itself is to blame for the state of affairs.
According to Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa, “The UN’s human rights machinery, over the years, lost its credibility due to the problems of double standards, selectivity and politicisation.”
Mamoepa said that historically, UN resolutions on human rights have targeted mainly developing countries, adding that no resolutions are ever brought and passed to address human rights situations in developed countries or global human rights problems created by developed countries.
“Because of this, a mockery is made of human rights with the impression created that certain human rights violations are tolerable because they are committed in some countries,” he said.
He said that South Africa has always been among the leading countries behind the reform and strengthening of the UN’s human rights machinery.
As a manifestation of this, said Mamoepa, South Africa chaired the negotiations that led to the creation of the new UN Human Rights Council. “We supported the creation of the Human Rights Council because we saw it as a body with the potential to re-energise the UN’s human rights machinery and improve its credibility.”
However, despite much fanfare at its inauguration last year, the UN Human Rights Council has been slammed for little action and for including members, such as China and Saudi Arabia, with poor human rights records themselves.
In the UNW report, South African was condemned for opposing UN scrutiny on human rights violations in Zimbabwe, Belarus, Cuba, and the DRC, as well as abstaining in a vote for the recognition, by the UN, of two international gay rights organisations.
Most recently, it helped block a resolution condemning the use of rape as a weapon of war on the basis that all forms of rape should be condemned, not just during war.
South Africa has been criticised for justifying these actions on the basis of technicalities around the mandates and roles of specific UN bodies as well as for supported developing countries at any cost – despite their poor human rights records.