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Resources updated between Monday, December 19, 2005 and Sunday, December 25, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

It was hardly a surprise that the UN "reform" talks on abolishing the UN Human Rights Commission ended in failure this week. The majority of UN member states are not fully democratic. Despite all the nonsense about having shared values, they don't. Some violate human rights, enjoy it, and object to scrutiny. Others are prepared to accept the consequences of mistakes or occasional wrongs.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's misrepresentation of the UN September "reform" Summit is now obvious. Annan's Director of Communications, Edward Mortimer responded on behalf of the Secretary-General to an editorial in EYEontheUN back in September. He claimed that: "The Secretary-General is accurate in saying that the Summit made "real progress" - ...on human rights (...agreement on the need for a new Human Rights Council, even without the details of how that Council will operate)." Post-Summit he said: "...negotiations should resume on the basis of the detailed language developed in the lead-up to the Summit, which enjoyed the support of the overwhelming majority of Member States."

The Summit document stated only: "We resolve to create a Human Rights Council." The overwhelming majority agreed on nothing else. The next two and a half months were spent going from bad to worse. The "new" Council was headed for a pale imitation of its infamous predecessor.

The last draft on the table, released on December 19th, has all kinds of outrageous provisions, some bracketed meaning not yet agreed, others unbracketed suggesting some provisional agreement. Here are some of the items raising alarm bells:

  • A provision requiring that any resolution critical of a specific state's human rights situation be adopted by "two-thirds of the members present and voting," not the current simple majority; the effect would very likely be that the only resolutions to be adopted would be those condemning Israel.
  • The first provision creating the Council begins not with human rights, but with "achieving international cooperation," a euphemism for inhibiting country-specific scrutiny.
  • All human rights, according to the draft, "must be treated, in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis;" this is verbiage attempting to delay protection of democratic rights and civil liberties until all kinds of claims packaged in rights-language are satisfied.
  • A provision touting "objectivity, non-selectivity...avoidance of double-standards and politicization;" these are all code words for denying the legitimacy of naming particular human rights violators.
  • A provision which insists on full implementation and follow-up of "all United Nations conferences and summits;" this is a blatant attempt to raise the status of non-binding outcomes of UN meetings, including those outcomes with which the United States specifically disagrees (such as the outcome of the Durban Racism Conference.)
  • A new provision for peer review, or a mechanism designed to have states examine each other's human rights records that would culminate in a Chair's summary of "the conclusions of the review;" the clearest evidence of the inability of states to supervise each other's human rights records comes from the human rights treaties which allow states to complain of each other's non-compliance; in 30 years of the existence of such inter-state complaint mechanisms the UN human rights treaty system has never registered a single complaint.
  • So far there is not one democratic or human rights-respecting pre-requisite for membership on the Council; the only "criteria" still on the table in square brackets is the idea that states subject to UN Charter concerns voiced in the Security Council would not be eligible for membership. Even if adopted, this amounts to no more than a handful of countries.
  • On the table is a provision that members could not serve more than two consecutive terms, with the obvious result that the United States (paying 22% of the costs) would soon lose its seat on the Council.
  • The frequency of the meeting time remains undetermined, with some suggestions in the draft that special meetings could be convened by one-third of the membership. Since the 1950's emergency meetings of the General Assembly have resulted in 10 special sessions, six of which have been about Israel, none, for instance, on Sudan.

In mid-January the negotiations on creating a Human Rights Council will resume. The effort to abolish the discredited UN Human Rights Commission has been turned into a matter of damage control. The only questions remaining are these. Will a new Council manage to hold on to any good features of the Commission? What steps backward will be extracted as the price of maintaining any of the status quo? What crumbs will be thrown to western governments in order to allow a public-relations story about a "new" Human Rights Council?

And the most important question of all. What will the U.S. Administration and Congress do if the Commission is not abolished or in its stead comes an Emperor with no clothes?

Anne Bayefsky

It was hardly a surprise that the UN "reform" talks on abolishing the UN Human Rights Commission ended in failure this week. The majority of UN member states are not fully democratic. Despite all the nonsense about having shared values, they don't. Some violate human rights, enjoy it, and object to scrutiny. Others are prepared to accept the consequences of mistakes or occasional wrongs.

The Emperor Has No Clothes Editor's Note

This is the transcript from the UN General Assembly's Second Committee meeting of December 16, 2005. It provides very revealing evidence of the nature of UN operations. A subject that previously had been dealt with by consensus, was transformed into a political battlefield merely as a consequence of an attempt to mention Israel in a non-condemnatory context.

The subject of controversy was pro-forma language welcoming the holding of a future conference in Israel on the subject of desertification. ("Welcoming also the decision of the Government of Israel to host, in cooperation with other stakeholders, an international conference entitled 'Deserts and Desertification: Challenges and Opportunities' in Be'er Sheva, Israel, in November 2006.") The language suggested was identical to the language in another paragraph, about a similar conference to be held in Algeria. The Israeli conference was included only after a vote.

However, the price eventually extracted for the mere uncritical mention of Israel was the inclusion of a new paragraph which condemned Israel once again. The Arab group introduced the condemnation as a new amendment, which was adopted by another vote. ("Deeply concerned also at the extensive destruction by Israel, the occupying Power, of agricultural land and orchards in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the uprooting of a vast number of fruit-bearing trees.")

The upshot was that one more resolution condemning the state of Israel was added at the 2005 General Assembly, in a vote of 120 in favor, 1 against and 47 abstentions. The only country voting against the resolution was Syria, which objected to any mention of Israel without criticism - in this case a mere Israeli desertification conference. Israel, and many other countries, were forced to abstain on the whole subject of desertification because of the Arab Group's success in adding the language condemning Israel.

The whole episode makes the political map of the UN very clear. A simple matter like desertification was taken from a consensus issue to a matter of controversy and divisiveness solely by Arab states that continue to object to peace with Israel and which have the UN in a chokehold.

Transcript of Second Committee debate on the draft resolution on the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, 2006 Development

December 22, 2005

December 21, 2005

December 20, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The International Atomic Energy Agency still refuses to put Iran's nuclear and genocidal intentions onto the agenda of the UN Security Council (which supposedly has the job of dealing with major threats to international peace and security.) Last month's debacle, at which the IAEA Governing Board once again ran in the opposite direction, is having the predictable results. This article reports "In recent weeks, Iran has been celebrating Europe and the US's decision not to refer Iran to the Security Council at the November meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

Europe and Iran to restart nuclear talks Article

John Bolton

The UN General Assembly has had 10 emergency sessions in its history. Six have been about Israel. The tenth is still technically in session, but adjourned, and is reconvened at will by the anti-Israel and anti-American General Assembly majority. So raising the level of attention and concern about egregious human rights situations in Myanmar/Burma, happened only as a consequence of the leadership of the United States and Ambassador John Bolton in the Security Council.

Remarks by US Ambassador John Bolton on Burma at the Security Council stakeout Development


The latest draft of a "new" Human Rights Council includes the following: (OP13) "[also decides that country specific resolutions shall be adopted by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the Council present and voting.]" Although this provision is still not final, it would clearly prevent the adoption of virtually any resolution condemning human rights violations in a specific country, but for those against Israel. This would represent a giant step backwards for the Human Rights Council. By keeping it on the table, the states with the world's worst human rights records have obtained concessions throughout the rest of the document. The "new" Human Rights Council is now almost identical to the old Human Rights Commission, and in some respects will be worse.

Revised text for the draft on a Human Rights Council (December 19, 2005 version) Document

El Fatih Mohammed Ahmed Erwa

This is a transcript EyeontheUN has prepared of the dialogue that occurred in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on the subject matter of human rights violations in Sudan. It took place on November 23, 2005 and it resulted in the defeat of the effort to condemn Sudanese human rights violations at the UN's 2005 General Assembly. So on December 16, 2005 when the General Assembly adopted a handful of resolutions critical of the human rights records of particular states, Sudan was not among them. This transcript reveals the reason why. The institutional impediment to the success of the UN as a truly global human rights leader remains the fact that most UN member states are not fully democratic. Protecting their own is the underlying pathology, which a "new" Human Rights Council will not solve.

Transcript of the Third Committee's adjournment of action on the situation of human rights in Sudan Development

This vote of the UN General Assembly's Third Committee took place on November 23, 2005 and removed the condemnation of human rights violations in Sudan from the agenda of the 2005 General Assembly. For the reasons behind it, see the transcript above.

Voting Record on the no-action motion on the Draft Resolution on the situation of human rights in Sudan Development

This is the 2005 draft resolution condemning human rights violations in Sudan that never made it past the human rights violators who control the UN General Assembly. For the details, see the transcript above.

Draft Resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Sudan Development

December 19, 2005

Putin's Payroll Article