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Resources updated between Monday, June 18, 2007 and Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 22, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Geneva Conventions

Anne Bayefsky

What is it about standing up for human rights that the United Nations finds so difficult?

A year ago, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan dissolved the U.N. Commission on Human Rights under pressure, after the commission discredited itself repeatedly, even electing a Libyan chairman. Now its successor -- the U.N. Human Rights Council -- is proving itself to be worse than what it replaced.

This week the council marked its first anniversary in Geneva, Switzerland, by adopting an agenda that is an affront to the civilized world. It deletes the job of investigating human rights violations in the brutal dictatorships of Belarus and Cuba and instead focuses its attention uniquely on Israel. It also serves notice through a new code of conduct that other human rights investigators will heretofore be on a short leash: A newly adopted Code of Conduct states that failure to exercise "restraint," "moderation" and "discretion" will be grounds for dismissal.

The U.N. General Assembly created the council without specifying membership criteria, such as, say, actually respecting human rights. The council now includes the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Qatar, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Less than half of its members, using the Freedom House's yardstick, are fully free democracies. And after a successful take-over bid of regional blocs within the council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference now dominates it.

The result is a decimation of a human rights system created over decades, with a new intense focus on Israel. Israel has been the subject of three special sessions, has been singled out in 75% of the council's state-specific resolutions and will continue to be routinely condemned until council members decide "the occupation" is over -- an occupation many members believe began with Israel's creation.

Meanwhile, there's been a deafening silence about the other 190 U.N. members along with hints that investigations into other countries will soon end. There were a few resolutions which encouraged more cooperation with Sudan. Another resolution, this one on freedom of opinion and expression, and which has been a feature of the commission since 1985, never made it through the council. It was derailed by the Group of Arab States.

The council did adopt a resolution entitled "Combating Defamation of Religions." It says that speech must "be exercised with responsibility" and limited to protect "public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs." The only religion mentioned is Islam.

With proceedings translated and broadcast on the Web, the council now serves as a platform for terrorist sympathizers. Last week, Algeria called the violence of Palestinians a "legitimate" means "to liberate themselves" and, in an attempt to shield the discrimination against Israel, said that "anti-Semitism is not the privilege of a small group . . . Arabs as well are victims of this type of prejudice." On Sudan, the council waited six months and then decided to start another U.N. fact-finding mission. When Sudan refused to let the human rights monitors into the country, the council created an "expert group" that remained in Geneva to focus on reviewing U.N. documents. This week the council gave the group six more months. Meanwhile, two million people have been displaced and up to 400,000 have died in Darfur.

The council will subject each U.N. member to a "universal periodic review." But then the reviewers will include the council's human rights abusers and the reviews will take place just once every four years. They will also be conducted under guidelines spelling out that they "should take into account the specificities of countries" and that they "be conducted in a . . . non-confrontational and non-politicized manner" and "not be overly burdensome to the concerned state."

The final act of the council's first year also designated a new method to appoint "independent" U.N. human rights investigators. From now on the council itself will choose them. New governing rules also reduce the investigators' authority to draw attention to individual cases or issue urgent appeals for action.

John Bolton, then U.S. ambassador to the U.N., saw all of this coming a year ago. He advised voting against the council's creation and against the U.S. running for election to it (the U.S. followed his advice). His instincts have now been proven right. Credit also goes to Canada, a council member, which this week demanded that the council vote on its plans for the coming years. Council Chairman Luis Alfonso d'Alba, of Mexico, stymied the Canadian effort. The request for a vote was then itself voted down 46-1.

The political lesson here is that the U.S. and Canada don't have the power to push the council to protect human rights, and the European Union would rather sacrifice Israel and hide its own weakness by joining the consensus. This gives the enemies of human rights a fašade of credibility. It also leaves U.S. taxpayers, who foot 22% of the bill for all of this, with only one option: Stop funding the U.N. Human Rights Council.

This article was first published in the Wall Street Journal.

This article has been translated into Spanish.

Anne Bayefsky

What is it about standing up for human rights that the United Nations finds so difficult?

A year ago, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan dissolved the U.N. Commission on Human Rights under pressure, after the commission discredited itself repeatedly, even electing a Libyan chairman. Now its successor -- the U.N. Human Rights Council -- is proving itself to be worse than what it replaced.

This week the council marked its first anniversary in Geneva, Switzerland, by adopting an agenda that is an affront to the civilized world. It deletes the job of investigating human rights violations in the brutal dictatorships of Belarus and Cuba and instead focuses its attention uniquely on Israel. It also serves notice through a new code of conduct that other human rights investigators will heretofore be on a short leash: A newly adopted Code of Conduct states that failure to exercise "restraint," "moderation" and "discretion" will be grounds for dismissal.

Geneva Conventions Editor's Note

June 20, 2007

The Palestinian UN observer objects to the very existence of the State of Israel. He asks "[w]hat had the Palestinian people done to Jews back in 1897 to justify the Zionist movement decision in Basle to colonise Palestine and thereafer in 1901 to establish its spearhead of expropriating Palestinian land..." And while antisemitism runs rife in the Palestinian media, school system and the Hamas Charter, the Palestinian observer uses the Human Rights Council to complain of the "outworn tag of anti-Semitism employed and exploited by Israel." He also compares Israelis to Nazis - referring to Israel-created "concentration camps."

Statement of the Palestinian observer on the Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in the occupied Palestinian territory: Follow-up to the Human Rights Council Resolutions S-1/1 and S-3/1 Development

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

June 18, 2007

The First Year of the Human Rights Council:
A Human Rights Catastrophe


In June 2006 the UN Human Rights Council replaced the discredited UN Human Rights Commission as the centerpiece of Kofi Annan's legacy of "reform". After its first year of operation, however, the Council's credibility deficit is greater than that of its predecessor.

A Short List of Human Rights Travesties

  1. The Human Rights Abusers in the Midst of a "Human Rights" Council
  2. Pledging to Protect Human Rights versus Reality
  3. The Promise to Review the Human Rights Records of Council Members and All Other UN states - "Universal Periodic Review" - Avoided in Year One and Gutted in Year Two
  4. Institutional Discrimination Against the Jewish State - A Permanent Agenda Item Only for Israel
  5. Hijacking of Every Meeting of the Council by the Organization of the Islamic Conference - 75% of all decisions and resolutions on Israel
  6. Watching Genocide from the Sidelines in Darfur, Sudan
  7. Deleting the Mandates of Existing Human Rights Monitors from the UN Agenda: Belarus
  8. Deleting the Mandates of Existing Human Rights Monitors from the UN Agenda: Cuba
  9. The Contrast - A Never-ending Mandate to Condemn Israel
  10. Stifling the Independent Human Rights Investigators - A New "Code of Conduct"
  11. Who Chooses the "Independent" Experts Investigating Country or Thematic Human Rights Issues Now? - the Abusers Themselves
  12. The Human Rights Council Succeeds in Undertaking Another Racist Anti-Racism Conference -- "Durban II"
  13. The Human Rights Council as an Anti-Human Rights Platform: Terrorists and Anti-semites Take Center Stage
  14. Human Rights Resolutions the Human Rights Council Didn't Adopt: Freedom of Expression and Combating Impunity

1. The Human Rights Abusers in the Midst of a "Human Rights" Council

The Human Rights Council was created without any criteria for membership, let alone rights-respecting conditions. In the first year of operation only 55% (or 26 of 47) members were full and free democratic states, using Freedom House's well-established criteria. After the second elections in May 2007 the situation got even worse; going into the second year only 51% (24 of 47) members will be full and free democracies.

Furthermore, the Council redistributed seats among the five regional groups from the distribution in force during the Commission. Consequently, the African and Asian regional groups taken together control a majority of Council seats. The Organization of the Islamic Conference hijacked the Council from the outset, commandeering a majority of each of the African and Asian regional groups in both elections. The OIC's control of the two regional groups, which themselves are majority shareholders, explains the outcomes and the priorities of the UN's lead human rights body.

At the commencement of its second year, June 19, 2007, members of the UN Human Rights Council include such rights-respecting countries as: Angola, Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

They aren't alone. Other UN Leaders in 2007:
  • Iran: Vice-Chair of the UN Disarmament Commission
  • Syria: Rapporteur of the UN Disarmament Commission
  • Zimbabwe: Chair of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development
  • Sudan: Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Saudi Arabia: Governing Body of the UN International Labour Organization
  • Belarus: Vice-Chairman of the UN General Assembly Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs

2. Pledging to Protect Human Rights versus Reality

Rather than actually having to meet human rights-respecting criteria, UN member states seeking to run for a seat have only to promise to behave themselves. Here are some of the preposterous pledges which have been made - and the results:

ANGOLA

ELECTED - TERM STARTS June 19, 2007

The Human Rights Pledge of Angola

"Angola will continue...to promote and protect human rights at the national level by... Mainstreaming human rights throughout the society ...Promoting the rule of law, access to justice and reconciliation..." Some of what Angola neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The government's human rights record remained poor and serious problems remained....Human rights abuses included: the abridgement of citizens' right to elect officials at all levels; unlawful killings by police, military, and private security forces; torture, beatings, and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; corruption and impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention; an inefficient and overburdened judicial system; lengthy pretrial detention; lack of due process; restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, including self-censorship, and assembly; forced evictions without compensation; and discrimination and domestic violence and abuse against women and children."

EGYPT

ELECTED - TERM STARTS June 19, 2007

The Human Rights Pledge of Egypt
    "At the domestic level, the Government of Egypt will?Preserve the freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the role of the Supreme Constitutional Court in reviewing the constitutionality of the laws and to act as an arbiter between the various branches of government?Endeavour to fulfil the aspirations of its people for a better future through a process of political, social and economic reform, anchored in the promotion and protection of human rights?"
Some of what Egypt neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "?serious abuses continued in many areas?[including] limitations on the right of citizens to change their government; a state of emergency, in place almost continuously since 1967; torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees; poor conditions in prisons and detention centers; impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention, including prolonged pretrial detention; executive branch limits on an independent judiciary; denial of fair public trial and lack of due process; political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on civil liberties--freedoms of speech and press, including internet freedom; assembly and association; some restrictions on religious freedom; corruption and lack of transparency; some restrictions on NGOs; and discrimination and violence against women, including female genital mutilation."

MADAGASCAR

ELECTED - TERM STARTS June 19, 2007

The Human Rights Pledge of Madagascar
    "?Madagascar firmly believes that greater consideration and respect should be shown for fundamental human rights. Indeed, the Malagasy Constitution recognizes these rights for all the people of Madagascar without any discrimination."
Some of what Madagascar neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The following serious human rights problems were reported: use of excessive force by security forces to disperse demonstrators, resulting in death and injuries; harsh prison conditions, which resulted in deaths; arbitrary arrest of demonstrators; lengthy pretrial detention; restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press; official corruption; restrictions on freedom of religion; societal discrimination and violence against women; trafficking of women and girls; and child labor, including forced labor."

QATAR

ELECTED - TERM STARTS June 19, 2007

The Human Rights Pledge of Qatar
    "The State of Qatar pays great and increasing attention to the goal of promoting and protecting human rights, considering that effort the cornerstone of the policy of constitutionally, politically, economically, socially and culturally comprehensive reform followed by Qatar?. Among the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, we might mention, among others, equality before the law, the prohibition against discrimination, personal freedom, the criminalization of torture, freedom of the press and expression, the establishment of associations, freedom of worship, the right to work, the right to education and the right of assembly."
Some of what Qatar neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "Citizens lacked the right to change their government peacefully. There were judicially sanctioned corporal punishments. Civil liberties, such as the freedoms of speech (including the use of the Internet), press, assembly, and association continued to be restricted, and limitations existed on freedom of religion. There were also some restrictions on foreign travel, as well as arbitrary deportation, sometimes after detention for several years. Government corruption was perceived to be a problem along with lack of public access to government information. Trafficking in persons, primarily in the labor and domestic worker sectors, was a problem. Discrimination against women, both legally and culturally based, limited their full participation in society. Worker rights were severely restricted, especially for expatriate laborers and domestic servants."
    Also omitted by Qatar:
    "In June 2004, a new criminal code was enacted that established new rules for proselytizing. Individuals caught proselytizing on behalf of an organization, society, or foundation for any religion other than Islam, may be sentenced to a term in prison of up to ten years."

CHINA

MEMBER UNTIL 2009

The Human Rights Pledge of China
    "The Chinese government is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Chinese people."
Some of what China neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "[T]he government's human rights record remained poor?There were an increased number of high-profile cases involving the monitoring, harassment, detention, arrest, and imprisonment of journalists, writers, activists, and defense lawyers, many of whom were seeking to exercise their rights under law. The government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, including stricter control and censorship of the Internet. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), both local and international, continued to face increased scrutiny and restrictions?[C]itizens did not have the right to change their government. Other serious human rights abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; and the use of forced labor, including prison labor?[T]he party and state exercised strict political control of courts and judges, and maintained closed trials and administrative detention. Executions often took place on the day of conviction or immediately after the denial of an appeal. A lack of due process and new restrictions on lawyers further limited progress toward rule of law. Individuals and groups, especially those considered politically sensitive, continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble; their freedom to practice religion, including strengthened enforcement of religious affairs regulations implemented in 2005; and their freedom to travel. The government continued its coercive birth limitation policy, in some cases resulting in forced abortion and sterilization."

PAKISTAN

MEMBER UNTIL 2008

The Human Rights Pledge of Pakistan
    "Promotion of human dignity, fundamental freedoms and human rights, equal status and rights of the followers of all religions and prohibition of discrimination on account of religion, race, caste or creed etc are enshrined in Articles 9-29 of the Constitution of Pakistan."
Some of what Pakistan neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The government's human rights record remained poor. Major problems included restrictions on citizens' right to change their government, extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape. The country experienced an increase in disappearances of provincial activists and political opponents, especially in provinces experiencing internal turmoil and insurgencies. Poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest, and lengthy pretrial detention remained problems, as did a lack of judicial independence. Harassment, intimidation, and arrests of journalists increased during the year. The government limited freedoms of association, religion, and movement, and imprisoned political leaders. Corruption was widespread in the government and police forces, and the government made little attempt to combat the problem. Domestic violence and abuse against women, such as honor crimes and discriminatory legislation that affected women and religious minorities remained serious problems. Widespread trafficking in persons and exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labor were ongoing problems. Child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and worker rights remained concerns."

SAUDI ARABIA

MEMBER UNTIL 2009

The Human Rights Pledge of Saudi Arabia:
    "Saudi Arabia has a confirmed commitment with the defense, protection and promotion of human rights."
Some of what Saudi Arabia neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The following significant human rights problems were reported [in Saudi Arabia]: no right to peacefully change the government; infliction of severe pain by judicially sanctioned corporal punishments; beatings and other abuses; inadequate prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, sometimes incommunicado; denial of fair public trials; exemption from the rule of law for some individuals and lack of judicial independence; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence; and significant restriction of civil liberties--freedoms of speech and press, including the Internet; assembly; association; and movement. The government committed severe violations of religious freedom. There was a widespread perception of serious corruption and a lack of government transparency, as well as legal and societal discrimination and violence against women. Other religious, ethnic, and minority groups faced discrimination. There were strict limitations on worker rights, especially for foreign workers. "

AZERBAIJAN

MEMBER UNTIL 2009

The Human Rights Pledge of Azerbaijan
    "Azerbaijan is fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms?.Particular attention is being attached to freedom of information and functioning of free and independent mass media?"
Some of what Azerbaijan neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The government's human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit numerous abuses. The public's right to peacefully change the national legislature was restricted in the November 2005 parliamentary elections, although there were some improvements in the period leading up to the elections and in the May 13 parliamentary election reruns that took place in ten parliamentary constituencies. Torture and beating of persons in police custody resulted in three deaths, and police officials acted with impunity. Prison conditions--despite improvements in infrastructure--were generally harsh and life threatening. Arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of individuals considered by the government to be political opponents, and lengthy pretrial detention continued. The government continued to imprison persons for politically motivated reasons. Pervasive corruption in the judiciary and in law enforcement continued. Restrictions on media freedom, freedom of assembly, and political participation worsened. "

RUSSIA

MEMBER UNTIL 2009

The Human Rights Pledge of Russia
    "The Russian Federation attaches great importance to the development of constructive international cooperation in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights?."
Some of what Russia neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "?The contract-style killings of pro-reform Central Bank Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, known for uncovering human rights abuses in Chechnya. Continuing centralization of power in the executive branch, a compliant State Duma, political pressure on the judiciary, intolerance of ethnic minorities, corruption and selectivity in enforcement of the law, continuing media restrictions and self censorship, and harassment of some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) resulted in an erosion of the accountability of government leaders to the population. Security forces were involved in additional significant human rights problems, including alleged government involvement in politically motivated abductions, disappearances, and unlawful killings?[H]arsh and frequently life threatening prison conditions; corruption in law enforcement; and arbitrary arrest and detention. The executive branch allegedly exerted influence over judicial decisions in certain high profile cases. Government pressure continued to weaken freedom of expression and media independence, particularly of major national networks. Media freedom declined due to restrictions as well as harassment, intimidation, and killing of journalists. Local authorities continued to limit freedom of assembly and restrict religious groups in some regions?Xenophobic, racial and ethnic attacks, and hate crimes were on the rise. Violence against women and children, trafficking in persons, and instances of forced labor were also reported."

CUBA

MEMBER UNTIL 2009

The Human Rights Pledge of Cuba
    "The Cuban women and men have achieved significant progress in the enjoinment of all their human rights. Either in the area of civil and political rights or in the realization of the so-called third-generation or solidarity rights, the Cuban people can show to the world, with deep modesty, but with full satisfaction and pride, its tremendous achievements."
Some of what Cuba neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The government's human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. The government denied citizens the right to change their government?The following human rights problems were reported: beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists, carried out with impunity; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including denial of medical care; frequent harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-recruited mobs, police, and state security officials; frequent arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations; denial of fair trial, particularly to political prisoners; and interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications. There were also severe limitations on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement, including selective denial of exit permits to thousands of citizens; and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally."

3. The Promise to Review the Human Rights Records of Council Members and All Other UN states - "Universal Periodic Review" - Avoided in Year One, Gutted in Year Two

The UN resolution which created the Human Rights Council contained a promise that every UN state would be subject to a periodic review of its human rights record. The resolution said that the Human Rights Council would:
    "Undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States."
Council members elected in the first year were supposed to be reviewed during their term of office. In the words of the resolution - the General Assembly: "Decides also that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, shall fully cooperate with the Council and be reviewed under the universal periodic review mechanism during their term of membership."

But the first year of the Council has ended. The term of various countries elected only for one year is now over. The number of states - including members of the Human Rights Council - that were subject to a Universal Periodic Review? Zero.

Instead, at the end of its first year the Council has introduced a system of review whereby the Council's human rights abusers will review each other, along with reviewing human rights in democratic states. And to make absolutely sure there is one rule on human rights abuse for Islamic states, developing countries, or any country with a well-worn tradition of female genital mutilation, honor killings, criminalization of homosexuality, or death following religious conversion, the guidelines of the UPR include this: "the UPR should take into account the level of development and specificities of countries."

The suggestion that independent human rights experts play a role in the review process proved unacceptable to the Council majority.

The Council has already set the pace for the "rigorous" UPR. There will be 48 countries per year and enough time set aside for a meaningful look at each country's entire human rights record in -- three hours.


4. Institutional Discrimination Against the Jewish State - A Permanent Agenda Item Only for Israel

Once the Organization of the Islamic Conference took over the Council, the die was cast, and the institution began a rapid descent into a total disregard for the UN Charter. The Charter demands the "equality of nations large and small." By contrast, the Council has now institutionalized discrimination against Israel. At its fifth session the Council will adopt a fixed agenda for all future meetings; the agenda focuses attention permanently on only one country's human rights record, that of Israel. The Council is also scheduled to adopt a framework for every future program of work which decides - in advance of even considering the agenda item - that the subject will be about Israeli "human rights violations." All other 191 UN member states may - or may not - come up under an agenda item entitled "Human rights situations that require the Council's attention."

Behind the scenes, the European Union conceded this egregious discrimination against Israel in exchange for the vague agenda item permitting consideration of other states. Europe's long and undistinguished record of trading the well-being of Jews off against the perceived welfare of others repeated itself. The EU actually claimed that the singling out of Israel was only indirect because "Israel" isn't mentioned until the "Framework for the Program of Work" - a ruse that fooled no one.

Agenda and Framework for the Program of Work
  I. Principls
...
  II. Agenda
...
Item 7. Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
  III. Framework for the Program of Work
...
  • Human rights violations and implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
  • Right to self-determination of the Palestinian people


  • 5. Hijacking of Every Meeting of the Council by the Organization of the Islamic Conference - 75% of all decisions and resolutions on Israel

    Totaling all the resolutions and decisions of the Council expressing any kind of concern with human rights conditions in specific states during its first year of operation, 75% have been on Israel and 25% have been on Sudan - as compared to nothing on any other country on earth. (The UN Human Rights Commission over a forty-year period of dealing with specific states focused 30% of all such condemnations on Israel alone.)

    Over the past year, the Council also convened special sessions to deal with what was supposed to be the most egregious and urgent human rights situations around the world. To the Council this meant three special sessions devoted to Israel-bashing and one working hard to cooperate with Sudan. None of the outcomes of the sessions on Israel, allegedly concerned with the welfare of Palestinians, dealt with human rights violations by Palestinians against fellow Palestinians, let alone Palestinians or other Arabs against Israelis. (The billion people in dire straits in China, the million female slaves/migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, the tens of thousands on the verge of starvation in Zimbabwe?can all forget about gaining the world's attention at the Human Rights Council.)


    6. Watching Genocide from the Sidelines in Darfur, Sudan

    Two million displaced and estimates of up to 400,000 dead, have not been sufficient to motivate the Human Rights Council to attempt to end the suffering in the Darfur region. Six months after its creation, the Council adopted a weak decision creating yet another UN Fact-Finding Mission. Sudan refused to let the human rights monitors into the country and the Council reacted by creating an "expert group" that was said to fulfill expectations by remaining comfortably in Geneva, meeting visiting delegations, and reviewing UN documents on Darfur. Another Council resolution (expected to be adopted by consensus on June 19, 2007) extends the expert group's mandate for another six months - while thousands more are left to be slaughtered at the hands of the Sudanese government and their partners.


    7. Deleting the Mandates of Existing Human Rights Monitors from the UN Agenda: Belarus

    While Israel has been permanently targeted, the Council eliminated the mandates of the current human rights investigators on Cuba and Belarus. Although it had before it reports critical of the abominable human rights conditions in both countries, the Council adopted no resolution on either state.

    On January 15, 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus - created by the Commission and not the Council - issued a report to the Council which included that
      "Systematic violations of civil and political rights and the deprivation of Belarusian citizens' right to effectively take part in the conduct of public affairs continue to be observed?.The judicial system is still subservient to the executive branch and there is no genuine independent legislative branch. Presidential elections on 19 March 2006, in which incumbent President Lukashenka claimed victory with over 80 per cent of the vote, were said not to comply with standards for democratic elections?.The Special Rapporteur?strongly condemned the escalation of human rights violations committed by the Government?; urged the Government to promptly stop its campaign of aggression against human rights defenders?The right to freedom of expression?in practice faces numerous limitations?The situation regarding freedom of religion has not improved?."
    In light of such egregious human rights violations, the Rapporteur specifically requested the Council extend his mandate "not only in time, but also in scope and means." Instead, at its fifth session, the Council responded by deleting the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in Belarus.


    8. Deleting the Mandates of Existing Human Rights Monitors from the UN Agenda: Cuba

    The Personal Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Cuba included the following in her report to the Council on January 26, 2007:
      "One subject of concern relates primarily to the arrest of almost 80 persons in March April 2003 in?arbitrary detention?.These persons were arrested while working as journalists, writers, members of associations, human rights defenders or members of opposition trade unions and political parties?. Moreover, in 2005 and 2006 more people were arrested and convicted for openly expressing dissident political opinions. These people continued to suffer harassment, intimidation and censorship after their release.
    The recent U.S. State Department report on the situation of human in rights in Cuba adds:
      "The government's human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. The government denied citizens the right to change their government?The following human rights problems were reported: beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists, carried out with impunity?and threats against political opponents by government-recruited mobs, police, and state security officials; frequent arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations; denial of fair trial, particularly to political prisoners; and interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications. There were also severe limitations on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement, including selective denial of exit permits to thousands of citizens; and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally."
    At its fifth session, the Council responded by deleting the mandate of the UN investigator on human rights violations in Cuba. In fact, the "reformed" Council failed to adopt any criticism of human rights violations by Cuba. (Even the Commission had condemned Cuba's human record for its last seven years, and for thirteen of the last 14 years.)


    9. The Contrast - A Never-ending Mandate to Condemn Israel

    At the same time that the rights and freedoms of the people of Cuba and Belarus were eliminated from the Council agenda (by mysteriously failing to mention the mandates of the special investigators on these states in the cumulative list), the Council confirmed the mandate of the special investigator on Israel will just roll over automatically.

    On October 19, 2006 the Israel investigator described his mandate as: "I have a limited mandate. My mandate is to investigate human rights violations by the Israelis and not by the Palestinians." The one-sided mandate, with its rigged outcome, is not a problem for the Council, however. At its fifth session the Council reconfirmed that the longevity of all UN human rights investigators is up for grabs - except for the one on Israel. In the words adopted by the Council: "the duration of this mandate has been established until the end of the occupation." For the UN members that control the Council, namely, the Organization of the Islamic conference, this occupation is one which began on the date Israel came into existence - and for them the mandate should terminate on the day Israel ceases to exist.


    10. Stifling the Independent Human Rights Investigators - The "Code of Conduct"

    It has taken over two decades for the UN human rights machinery to create a group of experts charged with investigating both country-specific and thematic human rights issues. Their creation and operations has seen an ongoing tug-of-war between the human rights abusing states - which seek either to eliminate such mechanisms or to control them, and those democracies which seek to improve and professionalize their work and then promote the implementation of their recommendations.

    In just one year, the Human Rights Council succeeded in doing the bidding of the abusing states. At the conclusion of its fifth session it is set to adopt a Code of Conduct which will hang a noose around every human rights expert's neck - to be tightened by the majority of the Council at will. Championed by the African group of states, the Code of Conduct limits and restrains those who investigate abuses while expanding the criteria necessary to establish that human rights are being violated.

    Investigators will be required to show "restraint," "moderation" and "discretion" while carrying out their mandates and to be careful to represent the views of the country concerned. Mandate-holders will be required to "always seek to establish the facts, based on objective, reliable information emanating from relevant credible sources, that they have duly cross-checked to the best extent possible" - language which hands any state subject to scrutiny (and its like-minded friends) authority to reject criticism out-of-hand on the grounds that information has not come from "relevant" or "credible" or "duly-checked" sources.

    Communications were the tool by which Commission investigators drew attention to individual cases that reached their ears. But the Code will require these "not to be manifestly unfounded or politically motivated." In other words, the investigators can't be motivated by any politics not to the liking of the government doing the abusing.

    Ruled out completely from the scope of investigators will be communications "exclusively based on reports disseminated by mass media" - which is not surprising given the disdain with which almost 50% of Council members hold freedom of expression.

    Urgent appeals - an approach developed over years to permit investigators to address conditions of serious suffering - will be disallowed except in very narrow circumstances "involving loss of life" or damage "of an exceptionally grave nature," and which, according to the abusers running the shop, cannot be dealt with by another means over which they have greater control.

    It took decades to develop a system of special investigators, which at least in theory, had a unique capacity to bring to the world's attention human rights conditions that would never otherwise see the light of day and in relation to the full range of UN member states. It took the Council only a year to decimate it.


    11. Who Chooses the "Independent" Experts Investigating Country or Thematic Human Rights Issues Now? - the Abusers Themselves

    Who chooses the remaining "independent" experts investigating country or thematic human rights issues? The Council does. At the Human Rights Commission, the selection of these experts, investigators or rapporteurs was made by the Chair in consultation with the Bureau - meaning representatives of all regional groups - and informally the UN Secretariat of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The majority of Council members could not block the appointment of a truly independent-minded expert, provided the Chair and the Bureau agreed. Members of the Bureau tended to trade-off favorites and so some independent-minded experts slipped through. By contrast, the Council selection process will ensure the majority can do as it pleases.


    12. The Human Rights Council Succeeds in Undertaking Another Racist Anti-Racism Conference -- "Durban II"

    The first UN Durban Racism Conference, which ended September 9, 2001 - two days before the terrible events of September 11, 2001 - was a notorious outpouring of hate and anti-semitism against Jews, Israel and the United States and a global platform for terrorists and their sympathizers the world over. The Durban Non-governmental (NGO) Forum, held in association with the government conference, adopted a declaration labeling Zionism as racism and deleted proposals on protection from modern forms of anti-semitism. At the NGO Forum, the only session on anti-semitism was shut down by a mob screaming "you are killers;" a news conference by Jewish NGOs from all over the globe who were attempting to bear witness to the hate was cut short by another mob, and the display and distribution of copies of anti-semitic literature akin to that of Nazi Germany was openly tolerated. The government conference, which followed, permitted the daily distribution of material which drew direct links between Israelis and Nazis. It also tolerated official security guard confiscation of material reading "fight racism, not Jews." And ultimately, it adopted a Durban Declaration which singled out Israel as the only racist state.

    Although, the United States and Israel walked out of the conference prior to this conclusion, the UN has falsely claimed the final document was adopted by consensus and has made the Durban Declaration the centerpiece of its "anti-racism" agenda.

    Then on December 19, 2006 the General Assembly decided to do it again. It adopted a resolution deciding:
      "to convene in 2009 a review conference on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to be conducted within the framework of the General Assembly, making use of the three existing and ongoing follow-up mechanisms, and to this end requests the Human Rights Council to undertake preparations for this event and formulate a concrete plan by 2007 for the review conference; and to provide updates and reports on this issue on an annual basis to both the Secretary-General and the General Assembly."
    This resolution followed a vote at the Human Rights Council on December 8, 2006 by which the African Group of states forced through a resolution - against the wishes of all Western European states and others (34 in favor, 12 against and 1 abstention) - setting up the preparatory infrastructure for Durban II. The Council will act as the preparatory committee for the conference, elect a bureau shortly and meet for three weeks in 2007 and two weeks in 2008.

    The Council must also choose a President of the Preparatory Committee for the UN Durban Racism Review Conference. At the moment, the African regional group - which believes it has proprietary rights over any follow-up to Durban I - is backing Libya for President. Armenia is standing as the candidate for the Eastern European regional group and Chile may stand for the Latin American and Caribbean group. Libya, of course, is a country with one of the world's worst human rights records and its chairmanship of the Commission on Human Rights was both a disgrace and a significant factor in its ultimate demise. If Libya were to be elected the President of the Preparatory Conference charged with designing a Durban Hatefest II, the racist will have become the UN spokesperson against racism, and the message and mission of the United Nations will have been totally inverted - again. Regardless of the Presidential race, though, members of the PrepCom Bureau charged with planning the Conference are rumored to already include such equal opportunity stalwarts as Iran and Saudi Arabia.


    13. The Human Rights Council as an Anti-Human Rights Platform: Terrorists and Anti-semites Take Center Stage

    A steady stream of terrorist sympathizers and anti-semites have been permitted to take the stage at the UN's lead human rights body. Here are but a few examples:
    • Algeria, September 29, 2006 -- Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Algeria announced terrorism directed at Israelis is the fulfillment of a "duty": "...it would seem to my delegation that the original terrorism is the occupation. Without this occupation there would not have been resistance, and this resistance is indeed a duty and not an act of terrorism. It is the duty of every occupied nation..."; June 13, 2007 -- It is wrong to object to "the violence that the people of the occupied territory resort to [in order] legitimately to liberate themselves... You cannot set violations of human rights by a military occupant against the violence of the resistance to this occupation." And lest anyone confuse blowing up Israeli men, women and children with anti-semitism, says Algeria on June 11, 2007, anti-semitism is about Arabs too and does not mean Jew-hatred. "[L]et's not forget that antisemitism is not the privilege of a small small group. It's not only something directed to a small group of Semitic peoples but both Jewish people and Arabs as well are victims of this type of prejudice?"
    • NGOs Badil and Defence of Children International, June 13, 2007 -- These NGOs, accredited by the UN, find fault directly with the creation of the UN member state of Israel. They complain about the "59 years" since the "Nakbah, or catastrophe [of] the creation of Israel." In their view, the presence of the Jew is the problem or "Judaization" as they call it, even within Israel's 1948 borders.

    14. Human Rights Resolutions the Human Rights Council Didn't Adopt - Freedom of Expression and Combating Impunity

    Canada had the audacity to object to the push by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to use the Council to demonize Israel, and voted against some of the OIC-sponsored resolutions. The penalty? Two Canadian-sponsored resolutions one on freedom of opinion and expression, and the other on impunity for human rights abusers, never made it through the Council. The impunity resolution was defeated by a successful motion to adjourn which was introduced by Bahrain on behalf of the Group of Arab States. And when the Group of Arab States indicated its intention to make the same maneuver to derail the freedom of opinion and expression resolution, Canada decided to defer consideration of the resolution - to a later date that never came.

    Here is the substance of the decision that the Human Rights Council couldn't be bothered with:
      "The Human Rights Council?decides to request the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression to include in his next report to the Human Rights Council a focus on journalists, including the issue of security of journalists, in particular in situations of armed conflict, taking into account information provided by States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including national press associations."
    A resolution on freedom of expression and opinion had been adopted by the Human Rights Commission every year since 1985. The Human Rights Council couldn't manage one year.

    What the Human Rights Council could manage was a resolution inhibiting freedom of expression. Adopted against the wishes of every Western European member, the Council adopted a resolution on "Combating defamation of religions." Religions had an "s" but the fig leaf ended there, with the only religion the Council deemed worthy of mention being Islam. What really bothered the Council was freedom of expression itself. In the resolution's words:
      "Emphasizes that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations as provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs;" (adopted 24 for -14 against - 9 abstentions)
    Another resolution discarded by the Human Rights Council was combating impunity for human rights abuse. The resolution would have had the Council:
      "Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to ensure the wide dissemination of the updated Set of Principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity to continue to support judicial mechanisms and commissions of inquiry and to provide, upon request, technical and legal assistance in developing national legislation and institutions to combat impunity in accordance with international standards of justice, fairness and due process of law;"
    But the Group of Arab States objected, and the matter ended there.

    Conclusion

    The UN Human Rights Council is a catastrophe. It cannot be fixed. It can only be challenged, defunded and sidelined. U.S. taxpayers pay at least 22% of its bills. In the name of the actual promotion and protection of human rights, the funding should stop now.

    June 18, 2007