U.N. defends Ban Ki-moon against rights criticism


The United Nations defended Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday against charges he has failed to speak out on human rights, saying that Ban had achieved positive results around the world.

The criticism of Ban’s rights record comes at a difficult time for the former South Korean foreign minister, who is widely expected to run for a second five-year term as the U.N. chief. His current term expires at the end of 2011.
“The record shows that the Secretary-General has achieved results both through quiet diplomacy … as well as public pressure,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The head of New York-based Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said in the group’s latest annual report that Ban has been “notably reluctant to put pressure on abusive governments.”
“Ban’s disinclination to speak out about serious human rights violators means he is often choosing to fight with one hand tied behind his back,” Roth said, adding that China, Sudan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka were examples of countries where Ban had failed to condemn repressive actions.

Human Rights Watch released its latest report on Monday.

Haq cited Sudan’s conflict-torn western Darfur region and the freeing of a jailed gay couple in Malawi as examples where Ban’s “quiet diplomacy” had achieved results.

Ban appointed a panel to advise him on how to achieve accountability for any war crimes or human rights violations committed during the final months of Sri Lanka’s quarter-century war against Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in 2009. Haq said the panel would soon present a report to Ban.

The secretary-general faced criticism last year when he failed to mention human rights or the jailing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in China last year.

Ban never congratulated Liu or called for his release.

Last week the former head of the internal oversight office of the United Nations, who quit last year accusing Ban of poor leadership, said his re-election would be an embarrassment.

Inga-Britt Ahlenius of Sweden, who led the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services until last July, repeated criticism from her end-of-assignment report that the world body was “falling apart” and “drifting into irrelevance” under Ban. The confidential report was leaked to media at the time.