Mandating Moral Rot at the UN Human Rights Council

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

At the United Nations, it’s a pretty reliable rule that when something looks bad on the surface, there’s worse rot beneath. That’s no accident. It’s a natural product of UN secrecy, bureaucracy and membership freighted with unfree states. Mix those elements together, and they yield a moral compost heap in which bad policy and bigotry flourish. By the time something troubling sprouts into plain view,  it has already set down a massive root structure within the UN hothouse.


For the past six years, one product of this mulch was the UN Human Rights Council’s sponsorship of Richard Falk as a special rapporteur for what the UN Human Rights Council is pleased to call “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” This has been a lopsided anti-Israel mandate since its conception, and Falk with great zeal translated it into a platform for attacking Israel and the U.S. That made waves in the U.S. last year when Falk blamed America for the Islamist terrorist bombings of the Boston Marathon. More than two dozen members of Congress called for the UN to fire Falk. As it turned out, the UN Human Rights Council (reborn in a 2006 flurry of “reform” from the irredeemably corrupt UN Commission on Human Rights) has no procedure for firing a special rapporteur, nor does the UN require its rapporteurs to divulge such niceties as other sources of funding and support. Falk carried on until his term expired this month, only to be replaced by a candidate with a similar anti-Israel record, Indonesia’s Makarim Wibisono. So far, so bad.

But neither is the Falk connection entirely gone.  The UN Human Rights Council has now appointed, as another of its special rapporteurs, none other than Richard Falk’s wife — Hilal Elver. She shares her husband’s work, agenda and predilection for 9/11 conspiracy theories, Israel trashing and so forth. You can read more about her on the web site of Geneva-based UN Watch, which called her UN appointment “bizarre, nepotistic, and politically driven.” UN Watch in its online briefing includes a link to Elver’s application for the post, complete with “self-disqualifying answers, non-sequiturs, and more than 20 spelling mistakes.” Her specific post is special rapporteur “on the right to food,” a post which UN Watch notes was initiated by Cuba and “first held by Jan Ziegler, founder and recipient of the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize.”


To this I’d add, if the UN’s aim is to ensure that people around the globe have enough to eat, the real project should be the right to freedom — the point being that free people have a far better record of ensuring all can eat well than do oppressed people whose “right to food” is overseen by state planners and UN rapporteurs. But campaigning for freedom to choose is not an agenda that would generate much business for the UN or its deep bench of cronies.

Instead, the UN has now empowered Elver to jet around the globe, traveling under the UN flag, reporting back to the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in New York, spreading her agenda on anything she might deem relevant to ” food.” Her position as rapporteur is unpaid, but her expenses are picked up by the UN (which means almost one-quarter of her tab will be bankrolled by U.S. taxpayers).

Oh — and did I mention that however bad these things look, it’s almost always worse? Well, Canada protested Elver’s candidacy for this post. And just after Elver’s appointment, the U.S. Mission in Geneva released a “media note” expressing its concern, noting Elver’s “lack of relevant experience” and record of “biased and inflammatory views regarding the United States and the State of Israel.” But when Elver’s candidacy came before the 47-member Human Rights Council, did a single member call for a vote? As we learn from Anne Bayefsky’s Human Rights Voices — not one. Her appointment passed by consensus. That means the U.S. delegate sat there and nodded along.


Canada is excused from responsibility for that consensus because it is not currently a member of the Council. But the U.S. administration has some explaining to do. The U.S. does hold one of the 47 seats on the Council — having joined in 2009, and renewed its three-year seat in 2012, based on the Obama administration’s argument that by working within the Council, the U.S. would have a better chance of actually reforming it. It is probably too much to expect that the U.S. could have swayed such fellow Human Rights Council members as Cuba, China, Gabon, Russia and Saudi Arabia to vote against Elver’s appointment. But what about the U.S. itself, and the other democracies on the Council?

Did the Obama administration make any serious attempt to lead on this issue — whether from behind or in front? Did the U.S. even try to muster at least a show of protest votes from such democratic fellow Council members as Germany, France, Ireland, Japan, Italy, India, the Czech Republic and the UK?  Or is consensus approval the best the U.S. can do these days when it comes to UN decisions which, according to the State Department itself, ensconce a rapporteur with a record of “biased and inflammatory views” on the U.S. and its democratic allies?


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