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Jewish World Review
Dec. 21, 2006
/ 30 Kislev, 5767
America has a duty to keep U.N.'s human rights panel on task
Well, that didn't take very long, did it? The United Nations Commission on Human Rights required several decades to become a dysfunctional den of tyrants, dictators, racists and mass murderers. The U.N. Human Rights Council managed to accomplish the same feat in a matter of only a few months.
Most people probably didn't even notice that a "reform" had taken place at the United Nations, that a new and allegedly improved Human Rights Council replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission in June. It was easy to miss.
China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Cuba nations with horrendous human rights records were members of the commission when it was dissolved.
China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Cuba are charter members of the council.
The Human Rights Commission distinguished itself by ignoring the slaughter of political opponents in Cambodia, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, Rwanda and Iraq and campaigns of religious and racial extermination in Sudan. Instead, it dedicated one week of its annual six-week session to condemning the alleged human rights atrocities of one nation: Israel.
As one of its first actions, the Human Rights Council voted to make the review of Israel's purported human rights abuses a permanent feature of each council session. Last month, it rejected a resolution from the European Union and Canada demanding that the Sudanese government prosecute those responsible for the rape, torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur.
The council has repeatedly called on the expert testimony of Jean Ziegler, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food. As the watchdog group U.N. Watch has documented, Ziegler was a founder of the no joke Moammar Gadhafi Human Rights Prize in 1989. Coincidentally, he won the prize, along with as much as $250,000 in prize money, in 2002.
To no one's surprise, Ziegler's area of expertise isn't food, it's the perfidy of Israel and the United States. Over the course of four years, a U.N. Watch report shows, he made 34 public denunciations of American imperialism and aggression, while only managing to criticize two of the 17 countries identified by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization as having created man-made famines.
Why care? Why not ignore the melodramatic farce of Ziegler, the torturers, the homicidal dictators and their protectors at the Human Rights Council?
First, because if it is true within a nation that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, it is even more true in a global sense. History provides ample evidence that nations that torture and murder their own people have little compunction about projecting violence across borders.
Second, because human rights issues real human rights issues are important. There is a vast amount of suffering that goes unnoticed in the world. The United Nations and its institutions are uniquely suited to address and alleviate that suffering. Occasionally, the United States must save the United Nations from itself.
Such is the case now.
To demonstrate its disdain for non-reform on human rights, the Bush administration refused to seek a seat on the new council. Though the United States has no vote on the council, it still funds the council with a $423 million contribution to the U.N. regular budget and more than $400 million for U.N. specialized agencies included in the administration's fiscal year 2007 budget.
So while the United States has no voice on human rights at the United Nations, it still pays for about one-quarter of U.N. operations.
That is assiduously backward.
When the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization devolved into an anti-American and anti-Israeli cesspool of corruption in the 1980s, the United States withdrew and took its money too. In 2002, after UNESCO had rehabilitated itself, the United States returned, along with its contribution.
The lesson for those who want real reform on human rights at the United Nations is this: The United States shouldn't put its money where its voice and its interests aren't.
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JWR contributor Jonathan Gurwitz, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, is a co-founder and twice served as Director General of the Future Leaders of the Alliance program at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. In 1986 he was placed on the Foreign Service Register of the U.S. State Department.Comment by clicking here.
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