Ken Roth in the Washington Post:
Halfway through his first five-year term, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres is becoming defined by his silence on human rights — even as serious rights abuses proliferate.
U.N. secretaries general have all struggled with when to speak out, trying to balance their role as quiet mediators of disputes with the need to represent core U.N. values. Outspoken support for rights can close some diplomatic doors but keeping quiet leaves the perception that the United Nations is indifferent to atrocities, abandoning the victims while often undermining prospects for peace. Guterres has firmly sided with quiet diplomacy.
He set the tone early in his tenure, which corresponded with President Trump’s inauguration. Guterres criticized Trump’s “Muslim ban” only after many other governments had condemned it — and then without mentioning Trump.
Guterres perhaps didn’t want to risk giving Trump an excuse to stop sending checks to the United Nations. But that reluctance to speak out has also characterized his approach to other powerful governments such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.