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Nation: WHAT OTHERS SAY: Amnesty wa
- Subject: Nation: WHAT OTHERS SAY: Amnesty wa
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 03:42:00
Subject: Nation: WHAT OTHERS SAY: Amnesty warns that political pressure
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Editorial & Opinion
WHAT OTHERS SAY: Amnesty warns that political pressure compromises UNHCR
LONDON -- The human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday warned
political pressure on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
is compromising its primary role of refugee protection.
''On a day-to-day basis, UNHCR can be vulnerable to political pressure, and is
not always able to voice its concerns publicly,'' Amnesty's 1998 annual report
It voiced fears that UNHCR appeared to be giving ''apparently conflicting
opinions, one in public and the other in confidence with a group of
Citing as an example an apparent reversal in opinion given by the UN agency to
the European Union on the plight of asylum-seekers from Iraq, Amnesty argued
that some UNHCR assessments could be to the detriment of refugees.
Lack of transparency at the core of UNHCR policy-making and standard-setting
for refugee protection also gave Amnesty serious cause for concern in the
It criticised the body which oversees the UN agency, the intergovernmental
Executive Committee (Excom) made up of 53 governments, for refusing to
publicise its conclusions on specific refugee issues.
There was no ''formal mechanism'' for allowing non-governmental organisations,
which often work closely with UNHCR, to observe or participate in debate on
''The process of drafting Excom Conclusions is far from open and transparent,
and is certainly not independent of the political considerations of member
states,'' the report charged.
It underlined that not all Excom member states were signatories to the
international Refugee Convention, despite the fact that part of UNHCR's
mandates the agency to supervise ''the application'' of the convention.
This factor prompted Amnesty to call for the establishment of a different body
to ensure states fulfill their obligations to refugees under international
UNHCR's funding structure also makes it ''susceptible to political pressure''
particularly from large donor governments who often ''earmark'' their funds
specific projects, ''increasing UNHCR's vulnerability to the political agendas
of states,'' it noted.
The human rights group admitted that UNHCR faces a ''fundamental'' dilemma
some countries reportedly make its presence conditional on it not criticising
that country's refugee policies.
The report asked whether UNHCR should speak out and risk reprisals or
expulsion, or keep quiet and attempt to contain abuses at a ground level,
not alerting the international community.