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The U.N. and Human Rights
by J. F. Kelly, Jr.[writer] 7/3/07

While settling all the world’s disputes and conflicts among nations may have been far too much to ask of the United Nations, surely one had a right to expect that the world body would at least be a staunch and impartial supporter of human rights. Sadly, one would be disappointed in this modest expectation as well.

Last year, then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan finally succumbed to widespread criticism of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights by dissolving it. It had lost all of its scant remaining credibility by kicking the United States off the commission and electing a Libyan chairman while ignoring human rights violations of its own members. The U.N. Human Rights Council took its place. General Assembly Resolution 60/251 dated April 3, 2006 established the council for the purpose of developing friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

The General Assembly, in its wisdom, determined that the council should consist of 47 member nations to be elected by secret ballot, requiring only the votes of a simple majority, which, of course, precludes serious debate on a candidate’s own human rights record. It decreed that membership be based on “equitable” geographic distribution which it then defined as follows: 13 from Africa, a like number from Asia, 6 from Eastern Europe, 8 from the Latin American and Caribbean states and 7 from Western Europe and “other” states. Presumably the “other” category referred to such miscellaneous nations as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand who would share less than 15% of the seats with all the nations of Western Europe.

Given this notion of equitable distribution with Africa receiving over a quarter of the memberships, the secret ballot provision and the simple majority requirement for membership, expectations that the new council would become an effective advocate for human rights were low. After a year of operation, the U.N. Human Rights Council has managed to live down to them.

Members include Angola, Azerbiajan, China, Egypt, Qatar, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia, where human rights violations abound. Fewer than half the members are democracies with free elections. The unwieldy size and composition of the council makes the transaction of meaningful business difficult. Frank discussion is impeded by regional rivalries and cultural differences. The United States, the world’s largest economy and most influential democracy, is excluded. In short, the U.N. Human Rights Council, like its predecessor and most other U.N. deliberative bodies, is a farce. It provides yet another forum for some of the world’s most despotic regimes to make political statements and heap disdain on the United States.

Capping its first year as the world body’s human rights watchdog, the council decided that it would continue to investigate Israel for human rights violations, while halting ongoing investigations of Belorus and Cuba. This continues a concerted effort by the U.N. to demonize Israel, the victim of repeated invasion attempts and terrorism at the hands of hostile Arab states. Israel has been the subject of more than half of the council’s resolutions addressing specific states and is openly referred as an occupying power. The only member nation to object to this agenda was Canada. The United States expressed outrage, of course, but it has no vote.

The council’s future intentions were made quite clear in a resolution it adopted entitled “Combating defamation of religions”. It requires that speech must be exercised with responsibility and respect for religions and beliefs and limited to protect public order. In other words, it must not offend dictators or theocrats.

The United States may not have a vote in this sham council but it does have some leverage. It funds almost a fourth of the council’s expenses. U.S. taxpayers should demand of their representatives in Congress that all U.S. funding of the U.N. Human rights Council cease immediately. At the same time, they should hold their Senators accountable if they opposed Senate confirmation of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. He, at least, had the courage to point out the U.N.’s many flaws and to call for reforms. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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