the too late awakening of the United Nations

the too late awakening of the United Nations

VSIt was thirteen minutes from the end of her mandate, just before midnight on Wednesday August 31, that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, finally published the UN report on the situation in the Xinjiang region. The text is a clear statement on the repression carried out by Beijing against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, sent en masse to internment camps from 2017.

The testimonies collected by the UN researchers report treatment “who can go to torture”. Accounts of sexual violence, particularly against women, are judged “credible”. The UN concludes that the extent of this system of arbitrary detention, and the general context of deprivation of rights in this region of the far west of China “could constitute international crimes and in particular crimes against humanity”. This last formula, under the seal of UN legitimacy, is overwhelming for China, which would like to present itself as a responsible great power.

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By publishing this report, the former Chilean president tried to save the image of his four years at the head of the human rights body. But the time taken to make this text public will also remain in people’s minds, testimony to the growing influence of repressive regimes on international institutions.

UN experts delivered the report to Bachelet a year earlier and had been waiting on his desk ever since. His fault was to allow himself to be drawn into the haggling of the Chinese authorities, on a subject which cannot suffer any compromise. Beijing dangled her on a trip to Xinjiang, where she had been asking for access for a long time. In order not to offend the Chinese power, yet author of the crimes denounced, and to increase the chances of seeing the displacement materialize, the report was not published upstream. However, there was no doubt that the stay there, which took place in May 2022, would essentially expose him to the staging of Chinese power. A Potemkin visit, while the report left pending was an objective and detailed investigation into a dramatic situation.

Low space

Leaving her post, the High Commissioner explained the logic that pushed her in this direction: “We must do everything to avoid a big divide and maintain a universal system. » It is the same logic, to forbid the break with a China that cannot be ignored by its demographic and economic weight, and by its capacity to lead the vote of developing countries which it supports financially, which guides the Secretary General of the UN. , Antonio Guterres, in his relationship with Beijing. And this even if, during the decade that has elapsed since the installation of Xi Jinping at the head of the party-state, the repression has only strengthened. Its renewal on the 20e congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which will open on October 16, will reaffirm its hold on the country.

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For China, there is a defeat in the revelation of the UN report, but a victory for having managed to play for so long. Moreover, if the Western countries have welcomed this return, however late it may be, most of the major Muslim countries have been careful not to make themselves the voice of the Uighur minority in the face of a major trading partner. This publication in extremis, salutary for the UN human rights office, shows the little space now left for the fight for the most fundamental rights in the institutions created to preserve them.

The world

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