By: Nate Dern

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The U.N. Responds to Criticism for Electing Qatar to the Human Rights Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Yes, We Elected Qatar To Our Human Rights Council, But Hear Us Out

U.N. Headquaters, New York City, October 22nd 2014 ‘

Hello international community. So, there has been a small, one could say, ‘outcry” after we announced that Qatar had been elected to be a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Chances are many of you haven’t heard of Qatar, and if you have, it’s just been from the media questioning the choice for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup since summer temperatures get up to 122 degrees fahrenheit there, with recent evidence surfacing that bribery and corruption was involved with the FIFA selection process (source). Or perhaps you’ve heard that to build infrastructure for the event, labor practices are underway that treat the 1.4 million migrant workers ‘like cattle,” resulting in a death toll that is on track to kill up to 4,000 workers before the first kick-off (source).

So, you might be all like, ‘Bwah?”, producing a sound that is meant to convey that you are wondering why Qatar has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, a body created to protect and promote human rights around the world. We’ve seen your Tweets and we agree that it could seem like a ‘Who Watches The Watchmen?” or a ‘Fox guarding the henhouse” or a ‘Human rights violator in charge of stopping human rights violations” situation.

But here’s the deal: our bench ain’t that deep. It’s a 47 member body and we guarantee a certain number of seats for each global region. You try to name 47 countries with impeccable human rights records. Go ahead. We’re waiting. Heck, try to name 5. Now try to name 5 without naming Scandinavian countries. Not so easy, is it?

We’re not saying they’re angels. We’ll be the first to admit that according to a report filed last month by Amnesty International (source) :

  • There are no labor laws to protect workers in Qatar, resulting in: excessively long hours to the point of injury and death, no guaranteed days off, and delay or absence in payment. Taken together, this amounts to what Amnesty International calls ‘forced labor” or as The Guardian called it ‘modern day slavery” (source).
  • A ‘sponsorship law” requires migrant workers to obtain an ‘exit permit” from their employer to leave the country, which gives bosses the power to prevent laborers from leaving the country to return to their families indefinitely; and although Qatar has said it will revise this system, no timeline has been offered for when it will (source).
  • Qatar has a particularly vile record when it comes to protecting female employees. If a female goes to authorities to report sexual or physical abuse from an employer, she is more likely to be charged herself with the crime of ‘illicit relations” instead of getting help or protection. As such, it is suspected that sexual abuse and even human trafficking run rampant and go underreported.
  • Qatar says they want to improve their record of protecting women, yet when we at the U.N. asked them to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, THEY REJECTED THE PROTOCOL (source).
  • State censorship is the norm and freedom of expression is punished with lengthy prison sentences in Qatar. The poet Mohammed al-Ajami is serving a 15 year prison sentence for reciting a poem critical of the royal family (source).
  • And, sure, to keep their oppression up to date, Qatar passed a cyber crimes law that makes it illegal to post or share anything online that could ‘undermine the social values” of the state (source).

We’re aware of all of that. And we agree: it’s not good. But seriously, who else are we going to elect? Iran? Iraq? Saudi Arabia? Wait – Saudi Arabia is a member. But anyway, you get the point. It’s slim pickings.

Besides, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has this theory that if we put them on the Human Rights Council, maybe Qatar will sort of step up and improve their behavior. Sort of like how in 2nd grade sometimes the teacher would choose the class bully to be the line leader, and you’d be like, ‘Are you kidding me, Mrs. Gabitzsch? You’re making Kyle the line leader??” But then sort of surprisingly it would give Kyle a focus and he would be better behaved all that day?

So, this is sort of the U.N.’s way of electing Qatar to be line leader for the day. Who knows? Maybe the’ll step up and surprise us all.

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