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May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on National Review Online.
On Thursday, the General Assembly elected 14 members to its top human-rights body, the U.N. Human Rights Council. U.N. human-rights policymakers now include Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Qatar, and Uganda. On a secret ballot, a whopping 155 countries, or 80 percent of U.N. members, thought Libya would be a great addition.
Obama's diplomats, sitting in the General Assembly Hall throughout the election, made no attempt to prevent the farce or even to object. On the contrary, Ambassador Susan Rice left the hall before the results were announced in order to hightail it to the microphone. Attempting to spin what was a foregone conclusion, she refused to divulge those states which the U.S. supported. When pressed, she said only that the Obama administration regretted some states on the ballot, but "I am not going to name names. I don't think that it's particularly constructive at this point."
Not constructive because, Rice suggested, it was no big deal. She described the countries on the Council - which include human-rights experts Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba in addition to the incoming freshman class - as just "countries whose orientation and perspectives we don't agree with." And later on she described the election as one which "yielded an outcome that we think is a good reflection on the potential of the Human Rights Council."
Rice was also asked to defend last month's deal, made with the help of the Obama administration, which saw Iran withdraw its candidacy for the Council in exchange for a seat on the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). With no apparent sign of embarrassment, she responded that Iran had been on the CSW before, so it "was not something new."
The results mean that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has tightened its grip on the Human Rights Council. OIC states garnered 70 percent of the seats allotted to each of the African and Asian regional groups, the two blocs that together form the Council majority. The number of fully free democracies went down and stands below 50 percent.
The whole election was in fact a charade - or, as Ambassador Rice described it euphemistically after leaving early, "there is not a great deal of suspense." The number of open seats for the Council equalled the number of candidates. Nevertheless, according to the rules, candidates could have been defeated if they had failed to garner 97 votes - a majority of Assembly members.
Rice's remarks made it clear, however, that the Obama administration is heavily invested in propping up the U.N. as a serious place to protect rights, prevent nuclear nonproliferation, and deal with Iran. That's why it failed to lift a finger to try to influence the vote on Thursday.
The fiction of a credible human-rights body suits the president's foreign policy just fine. It explains his decision last year to join the Council and to pick up 22 percent of the tab. The fact that the Council's main priority is to demonize Israel and keep the spotlight off abominations around the world has had no impact on Obama's calculations.
The Council was established in 2006 as a reform of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. The membership of the old Commission had made it a laughing-stock, so the Bush administration demanded that there be serious qualifications to join the new Council. No one else but a handful of states, such as Israel, agreed. Left out in the cold, these states voted against the General Assembly resolution that created the Council, while the rest made one promise about membership. The resolution declared that when electing members, the General Assembly "shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto."
The consequence of a U.N. commitment? Uganda and Qatar were elected pledging nothing at all. And two days before the election, Libya, Malaysia, and Angola sent in voluntary pledges.
Here is what got Libya elected: "The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. . . . [T]he improvement of prisons' conditions is part of a national advanced programme that ensures the training of judicial police officers in respect of human rights. . . . The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya offers . . . the independence and neutrality of the judge. . . . The existing law on prisons . . . is one of the most modern laws in the world. . . . No individual is accepted into prison without a judicial decision. . . . The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya pays great attention to women and children. . . . This consideration stems primarily from Islamic Sharia, which dignifies women, elevates their status and promotes their rights."
A glance at the 2009 State Department Human Rights Report indicates that Libya mysteriously neglected to mention a few things about what Ambassador Rice would call its "orientation and perspectives": Security personnel engage in routine torture and abuse of detainees and have the authority to sentence the political opposition without trial; the law sanctions amputation and flogging; President Qadhafi can interfere with judges at will; and women and girls may be detained indefinitely after having been raped for violating moral codes.
Candidate Angola told U.N. members about the glories of its "democratic state of law" and "inalienable rights and freedoms," and somehow omitted that government security forces are engaged in torture, arrest and harass NGOs, intimidate journalists, and monitor internet chat rooms.
Malaysia crowed that they "actively seek to promote and protect human rights" and "archaic law" "may be repealed." Left on the cutting-room floor, as the State Department report points out, was any mention of religious authorities who arrest and detain "members of groups deemed deviationist in order to rehabilitate deviants and return them to the 'true path of Islam.'"
In the end, nothing said or left unsaid made any difference. Not to the U.N. and not to President Obama. In a very dangerous state of affairs, the pretence of a legitimate U.N. Human Rights Council is politically advantageous both to Islamic states seeking to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state and to the Obama administration.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010
This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on Fox News.
Once upon a time, the United Nations was about protecting human rights and Eleanor Roosevelt was the chairman of its premier human rights agency, the Human Rights Commission. This week, the U.N.'s top human rights body, renamed the Human Rights Council, is poised to add Libya to its membership. Libya will be elected by the U.N. General Assembly through a secret ballot in a process that champions geographic and religious loyalties over anything remotely resembling the actual protection of human rights.
The Obama administration is making no moves to call for the defeat of Libya or any of the other soon-to-be human rights specialists now running for a seat. And yet, the 2009 State Department Human Rights Report says that in Libya there is routine torture and abuse of detainees, legally-sanctioned amputations and flogging, sentencing of political opposition members without trial, indefinite detention of women and girls "suspected of violating moral codes," homosexuality is criminalized, and their president claims that "the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah are forgeries."
Libya will not be lonesome. Other candidates include Malaysia, Mauritania, Uganda, Angola and Qatar. The 2009 reports from the state department on all these Council shoe-ins tell us the following: in Uganda there are politically-motivated killings by the government, and law enforcement officials view wife-beating as a husband's prerogative. In Angola there is government torture, widespread rape of inmates, and Internet chat rooms are monitored. In Malaysia, religious authorities arrest "deviants" in order to return them to the "true path of Islam." In Qatar the law calls for 10 year sentences for individuals proselytizing anything but Islam, conversion away from Islam is a capital offense, and the legal system treats with leniency men who murder women where there has been "immodesty" on the part of the victim.
The Obama administration's "speak no evil" approach when it comes to choosing U.N. human rights authorities marks the second time in less than a month that the administration has kept silent about handing a global platform to human rights offenders. Once ensconced on these human rights bodies, such states are given the legal and political tools to avoid democracy, champion moral relativism, criticize free speech, demonize Israel, and exonerate Muslim extremists.
On April 28, 2010, the U.N. elected Iran a member of its main women's rights agency, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). After EYEontheUN found the outcome buried in U.N. documents and Fox News brought the result to national attention, prominent women's rights activists around the country began gathering signatures urging Secretary of State Clinton, at a minimum, to denounce the move after the fact. They will remind her of the famous 1995 declaration she delivered at the U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing: "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all." Fifteen years later, Democratic priorities have changed.
Evidently, there was a backroom deal on Iran, which until recently was on the ballot for the Human Rights Council elections. The United States would look the other way when it came to an Iranian seat on the Women's Rights Commission, if Iran withdrew its candidacy for the Human Rights Council. While the Obama administration, European Union members, and even some U.N. officials, worried Iran's election to the Council would be a potential embarrassment, they had no such sensitivities about a women's rights agency.
On the contrary, senior State Department officials balked at any criticism of the U.S. over the CSW result, telling Fox News "there is no opportunity" to object. "That is not how the procedure works...because Iran faced no competition." But the "our-hands-are-tied" claim was as untrue for CSW as it is now for the Human Rights Council elections set to bring in a host of human rights abusers.
Elections to the Council are held within the framework of the U.N.'s five regional-group system, with each group entitled to a fixed number of seats. In theory, even if a regional group put forward only the same number of candidates as it has seats, General Assembly members could object to a state's candidature and refuse to vote yes. The rules require each state to get a majority of the members of the General Assembly, or 97, in order to be elected. If any state fails to accumulate 97 votes, the group would be forced to proffer a new candidate or another could step forward.
The U.N. Human Rights Council was created in 2006 on the grounds that the 60-year-old Commission had a "credibility deficit," as former Secretary-General Kofi Annan finally admitted. One of the main pieces of evidence contributing to the demise of the Commission's moral authority was the 2003 election of Libya as its chairperson. It took the Council – said to be Annan's crowning reform achievement – only four years to reach the Libyan credibility deficit.
The Obama administration made joining the Council one of its very first foreign policy priorities, and the United States was duly elected in May 2009. The Bush administration had decided not to seek a seat on the Council on the grounds that the reform had been a sham.
President Obama and his advisors were fully aware of the Council's record of non-stop denunciation of Israel coupled with white-washing of human rights violations around the world.
The statistics speak for themselves. There have been more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191 U.N. member states combined. In fact, only nine other states have been criticized by the Council at all. There have been 13 regular sessions of the Council on human rights anywhere in the world, and six special sessions devoted to Israel-bashing alone. The Council has a standing agenda of ten permanent items, one of which is devoted solely to criticism of Israel and one which is devoted to everybody else if and when the Council decides there are "human rights situations that require the Council's attention."
Among its most telling omissions is the case of Iran. Iranian leaders openly advocate genocide and actively transform their ideology into lethal practice. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the Council has never had a single special session on Iran or even adopted a single resolution condemning Iran.
But the Obama administration didn't care that the Human Rights Council doesn't do human rights. They wanted to be part of the showmanship of human rights, where the pretense of concern is the highest aspiration of the assembled dignitaries. Such dignitaries include current Council members like Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, Russia, Egypt, and Kyrgyzstan.
The General Assembly resolution that created the Council made promises about the election process. It says that when electing Council members, the General Assembly "shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto."
In 2006 and 2007 all states – knaves included – made voluntary pledges. In each of 2008 and 2009, one state didn't bother to make a promise to protect human rights. This year, five states so far haven't said a word about their interest in human rights protection. Almost every one of these countries has something in common – six out of seven are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The OIC states have a reason to believe they are untouchable by the U.N., by its human rights system, and by the Obama administration. States which are members of the African and Asian regional groups hold the majority of the Council's 47 seats, and the majority of members of each of the African and Asian groups are from the OIC, which gives them the balance of power. After Thursday's election they will hold 70% of the seats of each of these two regional groups, handing them a greater chokehold on the Council than ever before.
The pledges made by states standing in Thursday's election make a mockery of the process of becoming a UN human rights authority figure. Mauritania pledged:
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May 10, 2010
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