Talks at the Human Rights Council (HRC) were suddenly disturbed by the UN Secretary General yesterday, following the human trafficking and migrant abuse allegations that emerged from France, Germany and Italy this week.
The council, which had previously been close to a resolution on violations of the rights of women, was taken unawares, and the expression of confusion on the assembled diplomats faces was palpable. Some seemed shocked and others were still trying to comprehend what was going on, breaking the HRC’s strict rules on “cross talking”.
Following the Secretary General’s announcement, the room’s noise levels escalated as delegates shared their confusion on the current turn of events. The tactical decision to call for a five minutes break by chairs of the Council sufficed to restore decorum in the room while delegates went through the documents distributed to them. The presence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Karim Abada, was also acknowledged. Three minutes elapsed and you could hear the sound of a pin drop as no one uttered a word or fidgeted in their seat, all in a bid to grasp the issue.
With the opening of a new speakers list, the United Kingdom was given an audience as she said, ‘We would like France to explain to this committee exactly what happened in her country before we go any further; we need clarification of the actual situation.’ The reaction of France helped to tone down the anxiety of the United Kingdom, as she first of all acknowledged the recognition of French citizens in the video and apologised on behalf of the French government. She said, ‘Truth be told, we are as shocked as you all are to see such a video containing the misconduct of our citizens, and we would definitely handle this matter tactfully and with strong hands, to prevent the reiteration of such acts from French citizens.’ Could France outline the modus operandi to solve this situation? Clearly, they had no knowledge of The Rules Governing A Crisis Situation, section 1. “delegates powers” and unfortunately, ignorance is not an excuse in Law.
The debate went on and on, with delegates stating out different points and opinions for a way forward. Certainly, the S.G was not generous with time, judging from the short deadline. The High Commissioner made his presence worthwhile by answering questions and bringing opinions to the floor, adding his wealth of knowledge to the discussions.