Richard Falk, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, made headlines last week when he demanded that “businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise — should be boycotted, until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards.” These businesses include major U.S. corporations like Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard.
Falk has displayed hostility toward Israel throughout his career as special rapporteur. He has also demonstrated anti-Semitic tendencies, such as the posting of an offensive cartoon on his website. If that weren’t enough, he is also a “9/11 truther,” extremely skeptical of the official version of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. He’s gone so far as to call for an investigation into whether neoconservatives were behind the attack.
The U.S. has repeatedly condemned Falk’s actions and positions. Ambassador Susan Rice labeled his latest call for a boycott “irresponsible and unacceptable.” She added that “Mr. Falk’s recommendations do nothing to further a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and indeed poison the environment for peace. His continued service in the role of a UN Special Rapporteur is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the UN.”
While some Human Rights Council experts perform responsibly, Falk is hardly unique. Indeed, other experts have exhibited similar abhorrent behavior:
Former Swiss Socialist-party politician Jean Ziegler was appointed as an adviser by the Council in March 2008. Earlier in his career, Ziegler helped found the Moammar Khadaffi Human Rights Prize, shortly after Libya bombed Pan Am flight 103, killing 270 people including 189 Americans. Ziegler himself was awarded the Khadaffi prize in 2002.
Alfred de Zayas, the independent expert on the “promotion of a democratic and equitable international order,” is a hero among Holocaust deniers. His books about World War II, according to UN Watch, “portray Germans as victims and the Allies as perpetrators of ‘genocide.’”
Other experts working for the Council, while not crossing the line into rampant bigotry or sympathy for terrorism, have displayed disturbing politicization. For instance, Ben Emerson, the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, stated earlier this month, “There is no doubt that the Romney administration would be able to claim — in the event of a Romney presidency — a democratic mandate for torture.” In case you missed the point, Emerson added, “That would put Romney as the first world leader in history to be able to claim a democratic mandate for torture.”
None of these individuals have been held to account by the Human Rights Council. Their behavior continues despite Obama administration’s decision to reverse the previous administration’s policy and seek a seat on the Council. But what can be expected of a “human rights body” whose membership is dominated by countries with little or no respect for basic rights and freedoms?
Instead of impotently condemning the remarks of the Council’s human rights “experts,” the U.S. should seek to eliminate the Council itself. Then we could set to work establishing a more effective human rights body with rational, rigorous standards for membership.
— Steven Groves is the Bernard and Barbara Lomas Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Brett D. Schaefer is Heritage’s Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs.