The United Nations believes that it took a bold step forward on behalf of human rights last week when it denounced the scheduled public stoning to death in Iran of a man and woman charged with adultery. If so, that is about the only positive human rights development that has come out of the U.N. this year. Otherwise, it has provided a stone wall for the world’s worst human rights offenders to hide behind.
The U.N.’s main body focusing on human rights – the Human Rights Council - has just wrapped up its first year of existence with endless bouts of Israel-bashing. Kofi Annan had pitched this dysfunctional organization last year as “a great new chance for the United Nations, and for humanity, to renew the struggle for human rights.” To his credit, his successor as Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, voiced disappointment at the Council’s decision to single out Israel as the only specific regional item on its agenda, “given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”
As a case in point of real abuses sidestepped by the Human Rights Council, it decided to terminate the mandates of independent experts who had been studying the human rights records of Castro’s Cuba and of the repressive regime in Belarus. They are "two of the world's most active perpetrators of serious human rights violations", in the words of State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. Indeed, Belarus was so bad that it was outvoted for membership on the Human Rights Council itself in favor of Bosnia.
Independent experts will continue to report from time to time on abuses found in a number of countries including Haiti, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, Burma, and North Korea. But considering that the U.N. system as a whole generally ignores such findings, this is small consolation indeed.
In the case of North Korea, for example, the United Nations Development Programme has rewarded its dictator Kim Jong II with many millions of dollars for phantom development projects, irrespective of the country’s atrocious human rights record.
In Sudan, Ban Ki-moon has made some progress at last in convincing its dictator, President al-Bashir, to tentatively accept the presence in his country of a combined U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force of 20,000 to protect civilians in a few months. Nevertheless, a report by the Human Rights Council’s independent experts on the grave human rights crisis in Sudan was filed away on the shelf along with all other such reports. No meaningful Security Council sanctions have been applied against the perpetrators of the continuing genocide there. All in all in 2006, Israel was subject to about two times as many U.N. condemnations for alleged human rights violations than was the genocidal regime in Sudan.
In a very disappointing op-ed article appearing in the Washington Post on June 16, 2007, entitled A Climate Culprit in Darfur, Ban Ki-moon seemed to practice the left-wing habit of making excuses for developing world dictators. He actually blamed much of the violence in Darfur on the shortages of food and water caused by “man-made global warming”! Relying on the discredited theories of far-left economics professor Jeffrey Sachs, who remains an advisor at the U.N. as a Kofi Annan hold-over, Ban also claimed that “the violence in Somalia grows from a similarly volatile mix of food and water insecurity.” There was not one word in his article about the rampant corruption in Somalia or the Islamic extremists who sought to turn Somalia into another terrorist strong-hold.
Blaming climate or poverty for evil acts excuses the perpetrators of those acts from any individual responsibility for their brutal crimes against humanity. It is the same twisted logic that led Jeffrey Sachs to opine that Hitler’s Germany was “not uniquely barbarous”, but was only responding to tough economic conditions that were not of its own making. “Many historians have argued that German society under Hitler was somehow uniquely evil. False. Germany was destabilized by defeat in World War I, a harsh peace in 1919, hyperinflation in the 1920's, and the Great Depression of the 1930's, but was otherwise not uniquely barbarous,” said the professor.
Turning next to Iran, aside from the occasional condemnation of its stoning practices, the U.N. has given Iran a virtual free pass despite its horrible human rights record. Indeed, it continues to be rewarded with high-level representation on a variety of U.N. bodies while the democratic state of Israel continues to be shunned. The Security Council could not even muster a consensus to lightly rebuke Iran’s President Ahmadinejad for calling for the elimination of Israel. And consider this one mealy-mouthed sentence on the implications of Ahmadinejad’s threat by the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in his May 2007 report to the Human Rights Council:
“In the Islamic Republic of Iran, public statements, including the remark that Israel be ‘wiped off the map’ have been interpreted as having anti-Semitic connotations.” (Emphasis added) http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/126/78/PDF/G0712678.pdf?OpenElement
There is only one interpretation possible of Ahmadinejad’s call to wipe out the Jewish homeland – his desire for another Holocaust against the Jewish people even while denying that the first Holocaust ever took place. Polite language to couch this threat against Jews, by speaking about “connotations”, just does not cut it.
Meanwhile this same Special Rapporteur devoted several pages in his report to condemning supposed xenophobic abuses against Muslim minorities in the West after 9/11.
All in all in 2006, the United States was subject to about one and a half times as many U.N. condemnations for alleged human rights violations than was the Iranian theocratic throwback to seventh century notions of Shariah justice.
Indeed, the Human Rights Council’s independent experts get the most attention from their U.N. colleagues when they attack the record of not only Israel, but also of the United Kingdom and the United States. Three separate visits in the U.K. and U.S. in just the last two months have sparked sharp critiques of the human rights records of the two longest-functioning democracies in world history, on everything from the alleged violations of illegal immigrants’ migration rights to the Patriot Act.
The West is told to reach out to the Muslim world with understanding and respect. The proponents of this multiculturalist philosophy argue that the West must limit the bounds of freedom of expression and speech in our own countries so as not to offend Muslim sensibilities deriving from extremist interpretations of their religion. In other words, the basic human right of freedom, which our brave soldiers have sacrificed their lives to preserve, is supposed to give way to Islamic values that place deference to their alien religious beliefs above all other considerations. But Muslim extremists are not held to account when they issue death threats against individuals for simply exercising the right of freedom of thought and conscience that we hold so dear.
The U.N. has been strangely quiet about the recent surge of death threats in the Muslim world against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses and against Queen Elizabeth for conferring knighthood on Mr. Rushdie. Instead, the British government finds itself on the defensive for giving a British honor “for services to literature” to a British-Indian novelist in Britain. Indeed, the very same country that called for a member state’s destruction summoned U.K. ambassador Geoffrey Adams to protest against the knighthood. "This insulting, suspicious and improper act by the British government is an obvious example of fighting against Islam," Iran's Foreign Ministry Director for Europe, Ebrahim Rahimpour, was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.
The U.N. – particularly its Human Rights Council – has become an instrument for the barbarizing of human rights standards down to the lowest common denominator. It has become a propaganda forum, used to blame the world’s ills on the few democracies who believe that freedom is a universal right that must remain inviolable.
Until the Human Rights Council becomes something more than a facade for the world’s worst human rights abusers, we should support the legislation introduced by the ranking Republican in the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, which would cut off our contribution of $3 million to the Council’s annual budget.