- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Human rights organizations fighting against brutalities occurring in countries such as China and Russia are having a hard time getting their U.N. consultative status renewed. Ironically, the countries which have been fingered as human rights violators are the same ones who determine the status of human rights groups. Worse, it seems that the United Nations is listening to the violators.

The 19-member committee made up of countries such as Algeria, China, Cuba, Columbia and the Sudan decided to hold approval of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) accreditation last month pending discussions from June 12-23. The accreditation, made possible through the Economic and Social Council, allows them to speak at U.N. sessions as well as to hold roundtable discussions and briefings on U.N. grounds.

"There is more coordination among nondemocratic states than at any time since the collapse of communism," said Adrian Karatnycky, president of Freedom House. His New York-based human rights group is currently in danger of losing its U.N. access due to charges brought against it by China, with the backing of the Sudan and Cuba. China wants the status revoked because the human rights group used a U.N. telephone and interpreter in one of its roundtable meetings at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. China claims the NGO incited anti-China elements in the discussion.

Cuba's criticism was just as ludicrous. It claimed that a woman providing the NGO with legal advice and accredited with Freedom House was affiliated with an organization that had Cuban-American ties, and others that were "politically motivated against the government" of Cuba, according to Cuban Ambassador Carlos Amat Fores.

Freedom House should take the three governments' attempted censorship as a compliment; the NGO had listed all three with the worst rating on political rights.

A U.N. press release cited similar censorship patterns with other NGOs: Sudan complained that Christian Solidarity International, which has publicized the torture and enslavement of Christians in that country, was wrongfully continuing to distribute press releases.

A delegate of the Russian Federation complained about speeches from an NGO allowing Chechen separatists to talk about hostage-taking and slave-trading, and human rights groups wanting to address abuses in Chechnya are being threatened by Russia.

"They don't want us here," Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute said in an interview. "They think that this is their private party," he said. His human rights group monitors the United Nations. He was frustrated with the way the international body was handling credentialing for the conference on women in New York this week, but has also been upset with the pressure the United Nations has put on NGOs to remain silent.

Kofi Annan's U.N. Millennium Report, "We the Peoples" states that partnerships with the private sector and NGOs are a priority for the United Nations in the 21st century. Now it has a chance to put that priority in action if it allows an atmosphere of open dialogue on human rights between the accrediting committee and the NGOs. In order for a fair judgment to be reached on the status of the NGOs' futures, the bias of specific member-states who have acted as human rights violators must also be taken into consideration. Democratic committee members such as the United States, France and Germany must use their influence to rebuff the attack on the NGO's efforts on behalf of human rights. A country's degree of openness to criticism about its human rights record provides a window into the state of its governance.

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