The Corner

U.N. Human Wrongs Council

Claudia Rosett’s new Forbes column (linked here and on NRO Web Briefing) on the U.S. joining the U.N. Human Rights Council quotes Ambassador Susan Rice saying:

The aim now is to work “aggressively” from “within” to make the Council “a more effective body” and “a key forum for advancing human rights.”

 Claudia writes:

Given the Council’s rotten record and structural flaws, that’s an agenda akin to headquartering Alcoholics Anonymous on a bar stool in a busy saloon. …

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen pointed out that the Council, in its most recent session last week, “passed five separate resolutions condemning Israel and another calling for restrictions on free speech. Yet, it ignored real human rights abuses in Iran, Syria, Sudan, Cuba and other dictatorships.” That’s a sample of doings that suggest it would make more sense to strive to make the Council a less effective body.

Me: I vividly remember a briefing I went to at the State Department a few years ago at which it was explained to me and a few other think tankers how skilled, persistent diplomacy had succeeded — that while the old U.N. Human Rights Commission failed and deserved to be put out of its misery, the new U.N. Human Rights Council would be, by contrast, an effective body and a key forum for advancing human rights. Instead, as Claudia says, the new entity became “a satellite office of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and affiliated despotic regimes.” She adds that

after a brief pause to update the stationery, the Council began proving, if anything, even worse than the old Commission. Excusing, glossing over or simply ignoring the violations of some of the worst abusers, the Council, as noted by a Geneva-based non-governmental organization, UN Watch, has devoted more than 80% of its country resolutions to condemning Israel, while “eroding free speech protections in the name of Islamic sensitivities and steadily eliminating country investigations in places like Belarus, Congo, Cuba, Liberia and Sudan.”

Me again: I’m afraid that too often when State Department types go into negotiations with envoys from Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Iran and similar places, it’s like me sitting down to play Texas Hold ‘Em with guys named “Doc” and “Slim.”

Claudia’s advice:

If America’s president feels compelled to send delegates to the nest of hypocrites and thug regimes that is the U.N. Human Rights Council, then the best course is to use that chamber in Geneva as a stage to trumpet not what’s diplomatically acceptable but what’s right.

Unfortunately, that kind of backbone is not part of the State Department’s DNA, whether under a Republican or Democratic president.

Clifford D. MayClifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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