The nation is witnessing two ideas of how to proceed on the corrupt UN Human Rights Council: to join the body as an equal member with Cuba and China as the Obama administration desires, or to pass a Republican bill withholding funds until the council has earned them by reforming itself.
On May 12, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly voted to fill 18 seats on the UN Human Rights Council. The United States chose to run for a three-year term on the council for the first time and was elected, joining such human rights “exemplars” as Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.
Obama administration officials, including UN Ambassador Susan Rice, believe that they can bring about reform of this dysfunctional council from within. That’s not going to happen. We will be outvoted every time because of the way the council is presently structured.
Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns, R-FL, has a much better idea. Cut off U.S. funding for the council, he says, until it truly mends its ways. On the same day that the United States won its seat and thereby legitimized the council by our membership, Congressman Stearns introduced a bill (H.R. 2376
) in the House of Representatives that called out the council for the despicable body it truly is. From the outset of the Human Rights Council’s existence in 2006, it was clear that it was going to provide “a table for tyrants,” in the words of former president of the Czech Republic and human rights activist Vaclav Havel.
Unfortunately, legislation similar to Congressman Stearns’ bill has been proposed in previous sessions of Congress and has died without any serious consideration. At least during the Bush administration, however, the U.S. was showing its displeasure with the council by refusing to join. Now we are not only helping to fund this travesty but becoming an active part of it.
As long as both houses are controlled by liberals who, along with President Obama, are willing to give the United Nations whatever money it wants without conditions, Mr. Stearns’ bill will go nowhere. It currently has no co-sponsors and most likely will be buried in committee.
Nevertheless, the bill is worth examining because it speaks truth to power.
The bill starts with a series of critical findings regarding the dysfunctional Human Rights Council and its predecessor, the widely discredited UN Commission on Human Rights. It states that the “United Nations Human Rights Council does not embody the recommended institutional reforms necessary to advance human rights.” And the bill cites as one of its findings the defective voting system based on “geographical quotas that will only ensure that human rights abusers will continue to have access to membership on the council… The geographic quota system ensures a majority of membership slots for the world's least democratic regions.”
This quota system is inherently biased against Western democracies. Asia and Africa together make up a majority of the council - each has 27.7 percent of the slots reserved to its respective regional group. Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) members in turn make up the majority of the representatives from the African and Asian regions. Since the council’s inaugural year of 2006, the OIC’s percentage of the total council membership has hovered in the range of 30 to 35 percent.
The “Latin American and Caribbean” and “East European” regions together have 29.8 percent of the total number of council seats reserved to them (Cuba occupies one of those seats). The West is vastly outnumbered, with 14.9 percent of the total.
Israel is the only member state that is denied full membership in any of the regional groups and is thus not able to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council, even if it wanted to.
The result is a body that regularly passes resolutions calling for restrictions on free expression, in the name of protecting religions – especially Islam – from criticism. And the Human Rights Council has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all of the other member states combined.
Congressman Stearns’ bill addresses these incontrovertible facts head-on by saying in effect that the United States should have no part of the council unless and until it straightens up.
The bill declares that “the United States should not support the United Nations Human Rights Council, and should withhold any financial support for the Council until meaningful reforms related to the responsibilities of the United Nations for the protection of human rights are carried out.”
The bill lays down three conditions, none of which are presently met by the Human Rights Council:
(A) The council should be a body that upholds the ideals enumerated in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
(B) The council should allow full participation by Israel in all operations associated with the council; and
(C) The council should be made up of countries that hold regular, competitive, and democratic elections, allow for freedom of expression, and have a credible civil society.
The Human Rights Council is a travesty that the United States should not be associated with if we are serious about upholding human rights and democratic values. Why did President Obama make his shameful decision to join? It’s all about his inordinate desire to make amends to the Muslim world for what he claims are past mistakes by the United States.
"Let me say this as clearly as I can. The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical,” Obama declared in his mea culpa speech to the Turkish Parliament last April.
The problem is that Islamists are at war with the United States and the free world. And they are using the Human Rights Council as a vehicle to crush free expression and to protect autocratic regimes with horrendous human rights records from serious scrutiny.
Congressman Stearns is right – stop pretending that we can fix the current dysfunctional council, and let’s save our money and reputation instead.