Shameful antics in Geneva

The 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council, currently under way in Geneva, has turned into a platform for some disgraceful lobbying in support of the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) – the strange quasi-NGO that Norwegian authorities are investigating on suspicion of money-laundering.

Several obscure organisations were given the floor yesterday to express indignation at the police raid on GNRD's headquarters in Stavanger and to claim that GNRD is a victim of human rights abuse by the Norwegian government.

A speaker from the Geneva-based International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (IIPJHR) accused Norway of failing to comply with the UN Convention on Anti-Corruption in its investigation of GNRD.

IIPJHR (as I have pointed out before), works very closely with GNRD in many of its activities – so closely that the two organisations have offices at the same address in Geneva.

A speaker from Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, who said he was also representing 174 Egyptian organisations, claimed that "the current attack of the Norwegian media on GNRD and its president and founder Dr Loai Deeb looks more like a governmental order to create a bad image of the organisation to vindicate the 'mistaken raid' of the police."

Maarij and GNRD have previously held joint events on the subject of Sudan. In 2010 Maarij submitted a report to the Human Rights Council praising "reforms" by the Sudanese government. Last February, the Sudanese government supported GNRD's application for consultative status at the UN, highlighting what it said was GNRD's "excellent work". 

The 174 Egyptian organisations, headed by Maat for Peace, Development, and Human Rights, were the same ones that issued a statement last week declaring their "solidarity" with GNRD in the face of a "vicious attack from one of the rich oil states". 

GNRD, Maat and IIPJHR all worked together last year in monitoring the Egyptian presidential election – and produced a favourable report on it. Not surprisingly, the Sisi regime has since chosen them again to officially observe parliamentary elections in Egypt if and when they are eventually held.

Another organisation complaining yesterday about police treatment of GNRD was International Action for Peace and Development in Great Lakes.

GNRD meets on UN premises

Meanwhile, GNRD has been holding its own events at UN headquarters this week on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council. It is allowed to use UN premises for its meetings because of a decision by ECOSOC (the UN Economic and Social Council) last February to grant it consultative status.

Responding to the money-laundering allegations in a press release on Tuesday, GNRD cited its consultative status as evidence that it is "a real organisation with concrete professional foundation". But, as regular UN-watchers will know, the granting of consultative status isn't really based on merit: it's decided by a majority vote in ECOSOC. So the best way to judge an organisation with consultative status is to look at the countries that supported its application. In GNRD's case these were Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Guinea, India, Iran, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Uruguay and Venezuela.

At the UN on Monday, GNRD presented the findings of a "field mission" it had sent to Erbil, in the Kurdish part of Iraq, "to assess women’s rights and their situation in the refugee camps".

An account of this meeting posted on GNRD's website says:

"Rhodi Mellek, Head of the European Kurdish television for Rojava and Amir Forotan, Communications expert for GNRD, outlined GNRDs field mission to Kurdistan, highlighting the plight of women in refugee camps. They stressed that their findings, outlined in the mission report, which was distributed during the event, offer witness testimony rather than a purely academic perspective. 

"The mission to Erbil in Iraq was the first of its kind, undertaken in April of this year. The team of five specialists undertook field research to obtain information on women's rights, particularly refugee and IDP women."

There are a few important things this omits to mention. First, GNRD's trip to Erbil was organised through the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). Furthermore, Rhodi Mellek, described in GNRD's account as a Kurdish TV executive and allowed to present the report on behalf of GNRD, is a PYD member. She was also one of the "five specialists" who travelled to Erbil to carry our research on GNRD's behalf.

The Erbil mission, incidentally, is not the only example of GNRD's collaboration with the PYD and I hope to have a blog post about that shortly.

Another GNRD event at the UN, on Thursday, was on the theme of "counter-terrorism and human rights". So far, there is no report of that meeting on GNRD's website but it was almost certainly a follow-up to GNRD's conference on the same topic held in Geneva last February.

GNRD is pushing for a "new international mechanism guaranteeing human rights in countering terrorism" and at the February conference it produced a draft International Convention on Counter-Terrorism

The draft's core proposal was to set up a new body under UN auspices – the International Council for Counterterrorism – to decide which individuals and organisations should be classified as "terrorist" and maintain an official worldwide list.

One intriguing feature of GNRD's plan was that the structure of this proposed new body – please don't laugh – bore a striking resemblance to the structure of the Human Rights Council.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Saturday, 27 June 2015