The failure of Geneva UN body remains silent on Uyghurs
Photo: Ludovic Courtès, via Wikimedia Commons | Lizenz: CC BY-SA 3.0

The failure of Geneva

UN body remains silent on Uyghurs

On Thursday 6 October, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva voted 19 to 17 against discussing the finally published report of the UN Commission on Human Rights about the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China. This was the second time in the history of the body that such a resolution was rejected.

Observers see behind this not only a waning influence of the West. The decision also embodies the diminished importance of the issue of human rights in the UN as well as Beijing’s growing influence on the world body.

“A disaster”

“This is a disaster. It’s really disappointing,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, whose mother died in a camp and whose two brothers are missing. “We will never give up, but we are really disappointed by the reaction of Muslim countries.”

Human rights activists called the decision a clear victory for China and defeat for human rights. “With 19 votes to 17, a coalition of states has prevailed that rejects human rights and commits crimes against its own population unhindered under the guise of ‘state sovereignty‘,” Hanno Schedler, consultant for genocide prevention and responsibility to protect at the German NGO GfbV, criticised the decision. More and more states are tolerating Beijing’s “genocide policy. “

NGO: Berlin must show more commitment

The GfbV called on the German government, which co-sponsored the motion, to do more at the intergovernmental level. “During his trip to China, which Chancellor Scholz is planning for the next months, he must publicly call on Xi Jinping to end the persecution of the Uyghurs. Other states, especially smaller ones, are watching closely to see how Europe’s largest economy behaves,” Schedler said.

Muslim states side with Beijing

Uyghur representatives in particular found the voting behaviour of member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Geneva scandalous. Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan voted against. Somalia was the only Muslim country to vote in favour of the rejected resolution.

For decades, it has been part of the standard repertoire of Muslim criticism of Western foreign policy that it is “hypocritical” or “duplicitous.” No question, especially the military policy action under Washington’s leadership in the “global war on terror” as well as the situation of the Palestinians, which has been going on for decades, has given rise to this.

If the accusation of “hypocrisy” is not to be just empty rhetoric, it must apply universally. This includes Muslim states, their international bodies as well as non-state groups not raising their voices when it benefits their own interests. Examples of this can easily be found in recent decades. These include continued good relations with ex-Yugoslavia or Serbia during and after the Bosnian war, inaction in the face of the massacres in Darfur, long-standing anti-black racism in the MENA region, Russian-Iranian action in Syria or the proxy war in Yemen, where both sides are responsible for enormous suffering among the civilian population.

The vote proves that the old paradigm of a West acting with superior power in the Muslim world is no longer true. Today, most OIC member states are dependent on China in one way or another. Beijing has become a major buyer of their raw materials. In other countries, it is stepping out as an active investor or supplier. And especially in African countries, many governments hang on the financial and material drip of strong states like China or Russia.

Geneva is not the only recent example of Muslim states (and Muslim critics in the West) remaining silent on repression against Muslim communities and minorities when they do not fall into the usual East-West pattern of hostility. Already at the end of March this year, the OIC invited the Chinese foreign minister to its foreign ministers‘ conference in Islamabad. There, the situation of Muslims in Israel and Palestine, Myanmar and anti-Muslim racism in the West were routinely chalked up. Nothing was done for the protection of Muslim minorities (one of the OIC tasks according to its Charter) like those in Xinjiang.

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