Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Back to the Human Rights Council

Claudia Rosen has an excellent article about the egregious UN Human Rights Council on National Review Online. After a vigorous campaign led by UN Watch Western officials finally got away from whatever bars they were drinking in and put some pressure on Sudan to drop its candidacy for that body. That, says Ms Rosen is a victory of a kind.

She then goes through all the other countries that would not recognize human rights if they met them on the street that sit on that body or about to be elected to it.
All of which brings us to the question: What, exactly, are the real qualifications for membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council? 
On paper, the terms are neatly spelled out. In a resolution dated April 3, 2006, the General Assembly stipulated that even though seats on the Human Rights Council are open to all U.N. member states, the countries electing representatives should take into account, along with countries’ pledges of good behavior, “the contribution of the candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Further, the General Assembly may, by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting, suspend any member of the council “that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.” 
That’s great, but it translates into almost nothing in practice. Cuba, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Mauritania have all sat comfortably and entirely unsuspended on the council for years. Venezuela and Pakistan look like shoo-ins in the upcoming election. Evidently, there is no particular bar at the Human Rights Council to such repressive policies, in various combinations, as authoritarian or downright despotic rule, gags on free speech, religious intolerance, torture, jailing of democratic dissidents, or de facto tolerance of slavery.
There actually is no solution to the conundrum for two reasons: the countries are chosen by geographic blocs and when you get to those parts of the world where there are no free countries that respect human rights, you will not be able to find such countries for the Human Rights Council; but an even bigger problem is that among the members of the UN the majority are oppressive, illiberal and have only a nodding acquaintance with the concept of human rights. How can anyone believe that any of its organizations would be capable of promoting that concept?

Meanwhile, UN Watch once again confronts the UN Human Rights Council, this time over one of its new officials, voted in unanimously by the 47 member states, Alfred de Zayas, a man who is much loved by Holocaust deniers for his somewhat controversial opinions.

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