The Corner

U.S. to Legitimize U.N. Human Rights Council for Three More Years

The Obama administration was reelected today for a second three-year term to the U.N.’s top human-rights body, the Human Rights Council, with substantially fewer votes than human-rights heavyweights United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela, and Pakistan. Moreover, fewer than half of Council members now poised to begin applying democratic standards to the rest of the world, are themselves “fully free,” according to Freedom House rankings.

Also coming out a big winner today was the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which retained the balance of power on the Council. Council membership is divided among five regional groups, and the African and Asian regional groups comprise the majority of members. OIC states will continue to make up the majority on each of the African and Asian regional groups.

None of that fazed Obama U.N. ambassador Susan Rice. She told reporters after the vote that the outcome validated the administration’s decision to join the Council. Actually, the reverse is true. U.S. membership validates the Council as a serious human rights body — despite the fact that it is the U.N. entity chiefly responsible for the demonization of the state of Israel as allegedly the world’s worst human-rights violator. Thirty-eight percent of all the human rights criticism directed at specific countries by the Council in its six-year history has been directed at Israel alone. None has been directed at countries such as Saudi Arabia and China, to name but a few.

Rice is, of course, no stranger to diplomatic deceit, a trait shared by her Council colleagues. With a straight face Pakistani ambassador Masood Khan told the press after his country’s election today, “All forces and all segments of civil society in Pakistan are committed to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.” That would be news to say, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by fellow Pakistanis for advocating girls’ education.

The validation theme paraded by the Obama administration was echoed by the regime of another Council winner, Hugo Chavez. Venezuela ambassador Jorge Valero Briceňo told journalists that his country’s election was a recognition of the quality of democracy in Venezuela and its highly developed human-rights record.

The Bush administration eschewed joining the Council after the General Assembly in 2006 refused to institute pre-conditions for membership such as . . . really protecting human rights. 

By contrast, team Obama has turned heralding bogus human-rights accomplishments into an art-form. Today, Rice pointed to the Council’s “approach to Sudan” as one of its “finer moments.” In reality, this past September the Council watered down a resolution on mere “technical assistance” to Sudan to such an extent that it was welcomed as a “victory” by the government of Sudan. Behind the scenes, the European Union had fought the U.S. delegation to strengthen the criticism of Sudan — and lost. The majority of General Assembly members voting today were evidently grateful.

The spectacle may portend an Obama second-term with Rice in a key role. She both bragged to reporters about fictional “strong American leadership” while adding a throw-away line about the “flaw” of “excessive focus on Israel.” Brace yourselves for four more years of such “leadership” and the minor nuisance of Israel’s life-and-death struggle for legitimacy and equality on the world stage.

Anne Bayefsky — Professor A.F. Bayefsky, B.A., M.A., LL.B., M.Litt. (Oxon.), is a Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada, and a Barrister and Solicitor, Ontario Bar. She is also an Adjunct Professor at ...

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