Richard Falk and the Crooked Ways of UN Rules

You remember Richard Falk -- the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur who last month wrote an article blaming America for the terrorist bombings of the Boston Marathon. Falk suggested these horrific attacks were part of the post-colonial world's natural "resistance" to "the American global domination project." In response, more than two dozen members of Congress called for Falk -- an American academic -- to be fired from his UN post.

Now, according to a dispatch by Fox News editor-at large George Russell, the U.S. State Department is saying that Falk cannot be fired -- because the rules of the Human Rights Council contain no provision for firing any of the Council's dozens of special rapporteurs. That's quite plausible; the UN also lacks any provision for removing a secretary-general (as became evident during the Oil-for-Food scandal, on Kofi Annan's watch). It is also absurd, and in practice not quite credible. When UN senior officials want to, they can be quite creative about sidelining or ousting inconvenient personnel -- though such maneuvers seem more often reserved for whistleblowers than for those peddling the anti-American or anti-Israel vitriol in which the UN specializes.

But in the case of Falk, it looks like both the State Department and the UN Human Rights Council will defer politely to the UN's lack of rules for firing a special rapporteur. His earliest departure date will be May of 2014, when his six-year term expires. At which stage, as Russell notes, Falk could run for another post as a special rapporteur for the Human Rights Council, which is packed with countries sympathetic to his style.

It gets worse. Russell has also unearthed the information -- buried in a 183-page report from the UN's External Board of Auditors -- that Human Rights Council special rapporteurs, such as Falk, are not required to disclose any support they might get from institutions or individual governments. The basic arrangement is that these rapporteurs usually work for a token $1 per year, but the UN Human Rights Council covers their expenses which, according to documents obtained by Fox, can range from about $240,000 to almost $600,000 per year.

In other words, while UN special rapporteurs appear to be doing altruistic work for a token fee, the Human Rights Council has effectively issued them a license to operate under the UN logo, expenses paid by the UN -- and at the same time, allows them to accept funding from who-knows-whom with who-knows-what-agenda, and no requirement to disclose any of it. Oh, and P.S., there is no provision for firing them (see above, and read Russell's piece in full). It may happen that some of these special rapporteurs try to operate with integrity. But this is yet another instance in which, if the UN had set out to design a crooked setup, it's hard to think how they could have done a better job of it. It's time to think bigger than firing Richard Falk. How about finding a way to fire the entire Human Rights Council?

(Artwork based on a modified image.)