Dept hits back at human rights 'sell-out' claim

South Africa is a leader in how human rights issues are dealt with at the United Nations, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.

“In the multilateral arena South Africa has always been among the leading countries behind the reform and strengthening of the UN’s human rights machinery,” said departmental spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa in a statement.

The department was responding to a Sunday Times report that the country’s human rights reputation was “in tatters” after a series of “sell-out” votes at the UN on issues ranging from rape and gay rights to tyranny.

The article said watchdog United Nations Watch ranked SA last alongside China, Russia, Pakistan, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia on a human-rights list.

On Sunday, Mamoepa said South Africa had chaired negotiations leading to the creation of a new UN Human Rights Council in a bid to try to improve the UN’s credibility regarding human rights.

“The UN’s human-rights machinery over the years lost its credibility due to the problems of double standards, selectivity and politicisation.

“By double standards we mean that it only addressed itself with human rights problems in some and not in other countries.”

The department said UN resolutions on human rights mainly targeted developing countries and did not address human-rights violations in developed countries or global human-rights problems created by developed countries.

Mamoepa said South Africa was concerned about all human rights—not just civil and political rights—but also social and economic ones.

“The ranking by UN Watch is therefore blatantly lopsided because it creates the impression that the international community is only concerned about civil and political rights.” - Sapa

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