Credit the United Nations that even its thug-loving General Assembly couldn’t quite face the embarrassment of giving Syria a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. After diplomatic lobbying by the U.S. and a variety of others, Syria, in the words of its UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, finally agreed to “reschedule” its candidacy for a later date. In the May 20 election of candidates to the Human Rights Council, Kuwait will now replace Syria as one of four countries running for four seats coming up for grabs by the Asian group of nations. Apparently the diplomatic set view that as an acceptable swap, though as UN watcher Anne Bayefsky points out at the Weekly Standard, Kuwait hardly qualifies as a beacon of human rights: “There is no independent judiciary. The emir appoints all judges… Formal political parties are banned,” etc.
So what, exactly, is the UN achieving here in the way of a producing a Council that protects human rights? So far this year, the UN has suspended Libya’s membership on the 47-seat Council, and persuaded Syria to at least delay its bid for a seat. But nothing has yet been done to address the membership on the Council of such human rights abusers as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon or Cuba. In other words, human rights abuses are no bar to membership, as long as they don’t spill out too visibly into butchery in the streets. As a public relations move for the UN, that may be savvy. But how much does it actually have to do with human rights?