United Nations: India has abstained from voting on a UN resolution that granted special consultative status to an American NGO that works to free political prisoners across the world.
India was among the 11 countries that abstained from voting on the resolution in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Monday to grant special consultative non-governmental organisation (NGO) status to the Freedom Now group.
Of the 54 ECOSOC members present, 29 voted in favour of the resolution sponsored by Albania, Australia, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, UK, US and Uruguay.
Nine nations, including China and Pakistan voted against the resolution.
Freedom Now said being granted the status is important not merely as acknowledgement of its important work but to provide the organisation, its imprisoned clients, and their families a platform to address the UN Human Rights Council, ECOSOC, and the General Assembly during relevant discussions.
Freedom Now is a US-based non-partisan NGO that works to free individual prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts.
“Today’s vote is the culmination of a six year application process unnecessarily prolonged by politics,” Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner said.
“We intend to use this status to improve attention and global efforts to address human rights violations and arbitrary detention. Following this experience, we would like to bring forth greater discussion about reforming the NGO accreditation process and making the UN a more welcoming place for civil society,” Turner said.
India was also the sole abstention in voting in May at the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations on Freedom Now’s application, which was rejected after 11 nations voted against it.
The vote by ECOSOC however overturns the May 29 recommendation made by the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations to reject Freedom Now’s application.
US Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power said in a statement that Freedom Now had been waiting for over five years to secure accreditation from the NGO committee, which is why the US finally pushed for a vote to put an end to the “inexcusable attempt” to deny its official NGO status.
“Freedom Now is anathema to certain member states because its lawyers work to try to free those unjustly imprisoned on the basis of their political, religious or other beliefs,” Power added.
Governments opposing Freedom Now included China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, and South Africa.
Freedom Now accused China of leading the lobbying effort against it because of the organisation’s work representing Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and other Chinese dissidents.
Currently, more than 4,000 NGOs have consultative status with the UN.
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