OIC sets up its own rights watchdog
Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on July 12, 2011
Arab News, ASTANA, Kazakhstan: In a monumental step forward, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has established a human rights panel to safeguard basic freedoms for Muslims.
OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu described the creation of the Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights (IPCHR) as a seminal event in the organization’s history. “We have been acting swiftly through an open and credible process in taking concrete steps toward establishing the IPCHR.”
He said the new commission will cooperate with the United Nations human rights body. “The new commission will be totally independent. The 18 human rights experts from 18 different Arab, Asian and African member states will decide their own agenda.”
Ihsanoglu reiterated that promotion and protection of human rights including the rights of women, children, youth, the elderly and people with special needs, as well as the preservation of Islamic family values, have been enshrined in the OIC Charter. “It requires the member states to uphold and promote good governance, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, at both the national and the international levels,” he said.
“The commission will be composed of 18 high-ranking jurists and human rights specialists from member countries,” he said. “Since the OIC has three major geographical groups, namely African, Asian and Arab, each region will have six members on the commission. Each region has selected its six members, and the commission has now become a reality,” he said.
The commission will basically monitor human rights violations in OIC countries. “This is the first time that such an exercise is being carried out in the Muslim world. It will be 100 times better to hear what is happening in our countries from our own people rather than from the outside world,” said one delegate. “Of course, we are not in the habit of hearing any criticism from fellow member states, but eventually we will learn to set our houses in order to avoid attracting criticism.”
The concept behind the IPCHR was approved in principle last year during the OIC meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, but Saudi Arabia and Iran could not agree on where the panel would be headquartered. This year that barrier came down, and Jeddah was selected as its base of operations.
Ihsanoglu persuaded the Council of Foreign Ministers to agree to set up the commission’s headquarters at the OIC Secretariat in Jeddah. “Iran agreed to the proposal,” said a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Iran saw the OIC Secretariat as a neutral ground, and those who attended the meeting said Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi welcomed it.”
Some independent sources suggested that the decision to house the commission in Jeddah was temporary. “This is not permanent; it was only decided to set up in Jeddah till a final decision is taken,” said one source.
Saudi delegates refused to comment on the issue, but member states close to the Saudi position expressed immense satisfaction. “The OIC Secretariat is in Jeddah, and Jeddah is in Saudi Arabia. You can put it in many different ways, but the fact remains that the commission will be headquartered in Saudi Arabia — that is it,” said one delegate.