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Resources updated between Monday, November 01, 2010 and Sunday, November 07, 2010

Friday, November 05, 2010

This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on

The Obama administration got a new "shellacking" this morning, this one entirely voluntary. In the name of improving America's image abroad, it sent three top officials from the State Department to Geneva's U.N. Human Rights Council to be questioned about America's human rights record by the likes of Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

This was the first so-called "universal periodic review" of human rights in the U.S. by the Council, which the Obama administration decided to join in 2009.

The move represents a striking departure from prior American foreign policy, which has been to ratify selected human rights treaties after due consideration and submit American policy-makers to recommendations based on well-conceived standards accepted by the United States.

But in the three-hour inquisition which took place this morning, Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor responded with "thanks to very many of the delegations for thoughtful comments and suggestions" shortly after Cuba said the U.S. blockade of Cuba was a "crime of genocide," Iran "condemned and expressed its deep concern over the situation of human rights" in the United States, and North Korea said it was "concerned by systematic widespread violations committed by the United States at home and abroad."

According to the Council's procedure, all U.N. members are given carte blanche to comment and make recommendations to the state in the docket. But since only three hours are allotted per state, the practice has emerged of allowing approximately only the first sixty to speak.

This morning fifty-six countries lined-up for the opportunity to have at the U.S. representatives, many standing in line overnight a day ago in order to be near the top of the list. Making it to the head of the line were Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and North Korea.

Recommendations to improve the U.S. human rights record included Cuba's advice to end "violations against migrants and mentally ill persons" and "ensure the right to food and health."

Iran currently poised to stone an Iranian woman for adultery told the U.S. "effectively to combat violence against women."

North Korea which systematically starves a captive population told the U.S. "to address inequalities in housing, employment and education" and "prohibit law enforcement officials."

Libya complained about U.S. "racism, racial discrimination and intolerance."

In response to the many Guantanamo-related criticisms, the State Department's top legal adviser, Harold Koh, blamed the failure to close the facility on others: "President Obama cannot close Guantanamo alone. That also involves our allies, the courts, and our Congress."

The U.S. delegation was at pains to impress the international crowd. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organizations, told the assembled: "it is an honor to be in this chamber."

She was referring to the meeting place of the U.N. Human Rights Council the new and improved lead U.N. human rights body created by the General Assembly in 2006 over the negative vote cast by the United States. In this very chamber the Council has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191 UN member states combined. Calling the chamber home, for instance, are Council members Libya, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and China.

The Obama administration has until Tuesday to decide if it accepts or rejects the recommendations. The whole list of criticisms and recommendations, as well as the U.S. response, will be put together in a document distributed globally by the U.N. for the future edification of America-bashers around the world.

Administration officials are attempting to spin the exercise as one of justifiable and cathartic mea culpa on the world stage. But the impression they really left was one of moral and cultural relativism in which American leadership has been squandered to the detriment of victims suffering egregious human rights violations worldwide.

November 4, 2010

November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on Weekly

The United Nations is planning to hold "Durban III" in New York City in September 2011, marking the tenth anniversary of the 2001 Durban conference, and the non-governmental forum which preceded it, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

Durban I produced the infamous Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), which charges Israel with racism but names no other state in the world. Durban II, held in Geneva in April 2009, was headlined by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who saw the occasion as ideal for issuing another denial of the Holocaust and an endorsement of genocide against the Jewish state. Timing Durban III for the annual opening of the General Assembly is meant to guarantee the extensive involvement of presidents and prime ministers, most of whom eluded organizers of Durban I and II.

The U.N. will now be marking the 10th anniversary of Durban I at the same time and place as the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Durban I, the platform for violent, pro-terrorist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric that included such speakers as Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castrol, ended just three days before 9/11.

The intergovernmental working group charged with preparing next year's commemoration session just wrapped up its first planning meeting in Geneva. It adopted a series of "conclusions and recommendations" and indicated that Durban III is intended to "reaffirm that the DDPA provides the most comprehensive UN framework for combating racism." The U.N. General Assembly is now occupied with the delicate matter of finalizing "the modalities" of Durban III, and New York-based diplomats are hard at work negotiating the details.

The United States and Israel walked out of Durban I in disgust, while Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and the United States boycotted Durban II.

Even though these states were not represented, U.N. officials have continued to claim that the Durban Declaration was achieved by consensus, despite the fact that consensus clearly eluded both the Durban Declaration and the final product of the Durban Review Conference, which reaffirmed the Declaration. But at last October's Geneva planning session, the European Union walked backwards. It agreed as a whole to recommend to the General Assembly that Durban III produce an "outcome," knowing full well that the pressure will now be on to manufacture a new statement of unanimous support for the Declaration and the effort to further demonize and isolate Israel.

The Libyan representative in Geneva let slip a few more details about the intentions behind the 10th anniversary event, including drawing attention to the alleged "escalation of Islamophobia," citing such affronts as the Danish cartoons and threats to burn books in Florida.

Though the Obama administration did not send a formal representative to the Geneva planning meeting, the administration's ideological embrace of the U.N. has fueled speculation that the U.N. process of attrition may also affect U.S. attitudes towards Durban III. The Bush administration, represented by Congressman Tom Lantos, not only left Durban I it consistently voted against the twelve General Assembly and Human Rights Commission resolutions dedicated to Durban follow-up that it confronted over the years. When Durban II was in the planning stages, the Bush administration refused to participate.

By contrast, the Obama administration sent a delegation to Geneva to figure out how to get into the Durban II act, and didn't pull the plug on U.S. participation until a mere 48 hours before the conference, when the administration realized they couldn't sell support. American fence-sitting was the key stumbling block in efforts to build a large coalition of democracies prepared to boycott Durban II, a dangerous tool for tolerating the intolerant. And last June at the Human Rights Council, the United States decided for the first time not to cast a vote against the Durban follow-up resolution, even though the resolution promoted two celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the original conference: in June 2011 at the Council and in September 2011 at the General Assembly. The resolution also urged widespread participation by civil society in the festivities.

The role of "civil" society in Durban I is best remembered for producing out-of-control NGO mobs. These gangs broke into the one NGO session on combating anti-Semitism, forcing it to end. After threats of violence, they necessitated the closure of the Durban Jewish Community Center, which had been the meeting place for Jewish NGOs attending the conference. They disrupted a press conference of Jewish NGOs who were seeking to raise alarm bells. They required Jewish representatives from all over the world to flee the final session with a police escort because their safety couldn't be guaranteed if they remained. In the end, the alleged "anti-racism" NGO community deleted from their declaration multiple references to combating anti-Semitism and added that the self-determination of the Jewish people, or Zionism, was a form of racism.

The conclusions of October's intergovernmental working group appear to be setting the stage for another NGO debacle. They read: "The Working Group...invites...NGOs to participate fully in the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the DDPA [and] invites...civil organize various initiatives to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the DDPA with high visibility..."

In the next three weeks, the Obama administration will have to vote on the General Assembly resolution containing the "modalities" for September's Durban III in New York City. The administration should not only vote no, but must also respond clearly and unequivocally to the following question. Does President Obama plan to attend Durban III, and will his administration take immediate steps to prevent the U.N.'s use of New York City as a vehicle to encourage anti-Semitism under the pretense of combating racism?

November 1, 2010