27 October 2011

South Africa: Government Must Rehabilitate Human Rights Image By Endorsing Commonwealth Human Rights Commissioner

press release

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on President Jacob Zuma and the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to endorse the proposed establishment of a Commonwealth Human Rights Commissioner. Such an act would give credibility to the notion that South Africa's foreign policy is based on human rights, the rule of law and the values of ubuntu.

It would also enhance the value of the Commonwealth organization for all of its member states as it promotes human rights amongst them. We encourage the President to take the principled stance of supporting this initiative.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it is reported that our government does not support this proposal. In yet another signal of just how far our leadership has moved away from the human rights commitments that used to define it, the government appears intent on frustrating the realization of human rights at every opportunity.

Last week President Zuma rolled out the red carpet for one of the grossest human rights abusers in the world, Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago. Zuma welcomed Africa's longest serving ruler of 32 years with open arms, never even mentioning his terrible human rights record. Just prior to that, the President and DIRCO rolled out the red tape for the Nobel Peace laureate, the Dalai Lama, who simply wanted a visa to visit his friend, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Such a contrast in treatment to these men illustrates our government's loss of interest in human rights.

South Africa has its own human rights commissioner, presumably because the government believes that such an office plays a valuable role in the country. Now it's time to show the world that it believes that human rights are important to everyone by supporting the establishing of a human rights commissioner in the Commonwealth. Principled leadership requires nothing less.

Kenneth Mubu, DA Spokesperson on International Relations and Co-operation

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