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Friday, May 12, 2006

Mocking Human Rights

We here in Israel - at least on the right - tend not to take the UN very seriously. There is so much institutionalized bias against this country in the UN that it has long since forefeited any right to consider itself a neutral arbiter on anything connected with Israel. In retrospect, it's a miracle that the UN voted to recognize Israel as a member state in 1948 - I question whether we would even win that vote today if the circumstances now were R"L what they were then.

Anne Bayefsky, who runs a web site that monitors the UN (among her many positions), sounds like she is about to give up on the UN as well. What's got her ire up is that the UN's new and improved Human Rights Council looks remarkably similar to its old Human Rights Commission. With human rights violators like Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia (where just yesterday women were finally allowed to work in lingerie shops!) all being elected for three-year terms and with 21 of its 47 members being "not free" according to Freedom House's 2006 annual report the council is truly a mockery of human rights.

Ms. Bayefsky seems to have had it with the UN as a result. Here's her bottom line:
The botched reform effort will have real consequences. Resolutions condemning violations in particular states are highly unlikely ever to occur again (except in the case of Israel). The priorities for the states with the upper-hand are: "defamation of religion" (and the limitation of free speech), development over democracy, and "root causes" over the war against terrorism. The council will be a global platform to confuse victim with perpetrator and right with wrong.

Human-rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, both of which praised the council's creation and the elections as positive developments, have compounded the disaster. Evidently, they are no longer prepared to play the outsider's role of speaking truth to power.

While the spin from many is that the council appears to be a bit better than its predecessor because one or another human-rights rogue is not a first-time member, the reality is quite the opposite. The political will for change has been squandered; the pretense of reform following the old college try was not supposed to be the goal. A human-rights body that provides refuge for human-rights violators is an insult to human rights victims and people of good faith everywhere.

April's clarion call by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to establish "a council of democracies outside of the U.N. system that could meet regularly to truly monitor, examine and expose human rights abuses around the globe" has become an imperative for all those who care about the effective protection of human rights.
Read the whole thing.


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