Following on from their successful, and disturbing, efforts to pass resolutions on "combating defamation of religion" in the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, members of the OIC last week launched attacks on Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
As Brown reports, the attack on La Rue was unprecedented, as members of the OIC told him he "lacked competence" and had "exceeded his mandate" in advising the Human Rights Council on its work:
What had this respected lawyer done to incur such anger? In his report to the council he had failed to give priority to reporting on “abuses” of the right to freedom of expression (read: expressions of Islamophobia), the hot new requirement in his mandate forced through by the OIC in 2008. He had instead begun his three-year term by reporting on serious violations of freedom of expression: the 60 journalists murdered in 2008, and the 929 reported attacks on media professionals. He also addressed the links between extreme poverty, access to information and freedom of opinion and expression. In other words, he had been doing his job.While there is opposition to such activity from states such as the United States, Canada, the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands, Brown says "the voices of reason are now in a minority at the Human Rights Council". The OIC, backed by China, India and Russia, had only the week before helped to stifle criticism of Sri Lanka over the end of the war against the Tamil Tigers. Meanwhile, the High Commissioner for Human Rights was criticised by Pakistan for mentioning gay rights in a report, on the grounds that the Human Rights Council "has no agreed policy on homosexuality".
As Brown explains, all this has disturbing implications for free speech at the UN:
What is at stake here is more than limits on freedom of expression. What we are seeing is a direct challenge to the ability of the Human Rights Council and other UN human rights mechanisms to deal effectively with human rights abuse. When freedom to collect information and express opinions is restricted, then the ability to expose corruption, discrimination and human rights abuse is fatally weakened. Could this possibly be the real objective of the Islamic states and its allies?