Yes, folks, it’s about time for the United Nations to produce its next slate of candidates for election to 14 of the 47 member seats on the UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council. Not that the UN seems in a hurry to advertise the candidates, but Geneva-based UN Watch has the scoop. So, guess who’s in the running…
B) Saudi Arabia
G) All of the Above (plus maybe Syria and Iran, though these have yet to be confirmed)
A no-brainer, I know. It’s obviously G, and in the spirit of the UN brand of human rights diversity, we might well ask what kind of bigotry is at work that the UN has failed to flatter North Korea with a place on this list. Of course, there are other candidates as well. Countries such as France, the UK, Latvia, Mexico and Morocco are also among the contenders. And in an election process that allocates seats by quota to regional groups, there are actually more candidates than seats for some of the regions — meaning that when the General Assembly votes on these candidates this November, there will actually be a bit of competition.
But it’s a good bet that some of the human rights abusers listed above will end up on the council. Even for those who don’t win seats, the UN’s mechanisms provide a wealth of opportunities to weigh in as erstwhile authorities on human rights, regardless of what’s going on back home in the dungeons, the gulag… or perhaps in Evin prison. Here’s a choice example of UN Human Rights Council deliberations: Iran weighing in at the Human Rights Council just two months ago to praise — of course — Cuba “for its real commitment to human rights.” (Iran Statement on Cuba — UN Human Rights Council — May 2013 ).
Can this be fixed? Actually, the current Human Rights Council was supposed to be the fix, created in 2006 to replace the utterly discredited former Commission on Human Rights, which fell prey to the same ills — a rot that reached its apotheosis in 2003, when Qaddafi’s Libya was chosen to preside. The basic flaws were not fixed. Though some candidates may be defeated by dogged campaigns, the fundamental design of the UN Human Rights Council means that human rights abusers will continue to infest the Council. The basic problem is a UN system which for purposes of rights and privileges of member states draws no distinction between free countries and the world’s worst despotisms. For instance, Iran, despite being under UN Security Council sanctions, can sit on the executive boards of the UN flagship agency, the UN Development Program, or UNICEF (actually, it sits on both), and though reasonable people might find that nuts, at the UN it is received as normal practice.
At the Human Rights Council, this UN Setup translates over and over into the monstrous absurdity that the worst human rights abusers are received as qualified to pronounce judgment on human rights, and — courtesy in particular of U.S. tax dollars — given a world stage to do so. They buddy up, praise each other, condemn the democracies they fear … and out of this process come such travesties as the Goldstone Report (savaging Israel) and the appointment of Special Rapporteur Richard Falk (savaging Israel, and blaming the Boston marathon bombing on the U.S.).
What to do? In an ideal world, the U.S. would either find a way to pull the plug on the entire enterprise, or at least move it to Novosibirsk — further from Swiss banks and jewelry shopping, and closer to irrelevance. At the very least, the U.S. could walk away. Nothing like that looks likely to happen anytime soon. But if there is a solution to be found, it probably begins with recognizing that the UN Human Rights Council is not designed to protect human rights. It is designed to provide rotating seats, and credentials that its democratic members don’t need, and the rest of its members don’t deserve.