US might join UNHCR / Eleanor’s Dream

From UNWatch by mail (my emphasis  & links):

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that Washington will seek membershp in the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing the Bush Administration’s decision to steer clear of the deeply troubled body, created in 2006 ostensibly to reform its discredited predecessor.

Elections for rotating membership on the 47-nation council will take place at the General Assembly in May, with all 192 U.N. member states casting a ballot. The U.S. under the popular President Obama is virtually assured of election to the one of only 7 seats reserved for Western states. African and Asian states exercise a controlling majority with 26 seats.

Pathologically obsessed with scapegoating Israel — in more than 80 percent of all country resolutions (26 out of 33) — the council’s sessions routinely legitimize perpetrators, while turning a blind eye to millions of human rights victims around the world.

Whether we like it or not, however, the council is a permanent forum whose resolutions, translated into every language, exercise global influence on hearts and minds. As the successor to the Commission on Human Rights, it has noble origins: the commission was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt with the purpose of defending human dignity, but in later years found itself increasingly hijacked by the new U.N. majorities.

This stands in contrast to the fleeting Durban II conference, a one-week exercise that should be avoided, and whose original purpose — like Durban I and the proto-Durbans before it — was precisely to attack the West, Israel, and free speech; and was never, as the U.N. spin-machine would have us believe, “to provide concrete measures that will help millions.”

That’s why U.N. enthusiast Jimmy Carter himself was the first U.S. president to withdraw from such an event, back in 1978, a bit of history many would prefer not to recall. It was the U.N.’s first “World Conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination,” also held in Geneva, which Carter skipped because the definition of racism had been “perverted for political ends.” President Ronald Reagan likewise avoided the second Geneva gathering in 1983, and President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell famously pulled out from the third, and worst one, at Durban in 2001. Durban-fests have their own particular and pernicious provenance, and American governments have always been right to stay away.

The Human Rights Council, despite its pathologies, has a different history, weight and impact. Its mixed baggage still includes many bedrock principles embedded in positive institutions built up over time, which affirm and protect universal liberties like free speech and freedom of religion, and which need to be protected. With its proceedings now webcast, and with meetings held year-round instead of once a year, it’s a forum that grabs the world’s attention.

UN Watch therefore welcomes the U.S. decision to join the council, but only if it’s to vigorously push back against the world’s worst abusers, whose Orwellian agenda, in only three years, has begun to do away with every principle and institution of independent scrutiny, dismantling the post-war edifice of international human rights law piece by piece.

Repressive regimes now have the council in a stranglehold, eroding free speech protections in the name of Islamic sensitivities, and steadily eliminating country investigations in places like Belarus, Congo, Cuba, Liberia and Sudan. The few remaining ones, including on Sudan, are on the chopping block. (The investigation of Israel, however, which examines only Israeli actions and presumes guilt in advance, is exempt from review; fittingly, it’s headed by Richard Falk, whose fruitcake writings include the repeated suggestion that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job by the U.S. government.)

Make no mistake: given the fixed regional seating, the U.S. will only replace the principled vote of outgoing Canada — a courageous government that last week voted alone several times to oppose anti-Israel resolutions — and not that of a Saudi Arabia or Cuba. No immediate victory is in sight, then.

Still, we may see some turning of the tide. Leading council hardliners like Egypt and Pakistan may back off somewhat with their chief funder sitting at the table. And the automatic majority for the anti-freedom and anti-Israel agenda could moderately diminish.

With high-level advocacy by Washington, some wavering states could lean toward principle instead of politics. (Mexico and other Latin American countries last week refused to join the West in opposing an Islamic resolution that encouraged censorship, and merely abstained.)

Ironically, U.S. “engagement” in this case will necessarily lead America into more confrontation, especially vis-a-vis such major violators and council spoilers like Egypt, Pakistan, China, Russia, and Cuba.

Unlike the Security Council and the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council has neither the power of the sword nor the power of the purse. At its best, it has only the power of shame: to shine a spotlight on the crimes of the worst abusers.

This, tragically, it has failed to do. But it is precisely what American public opinion will demand of the U.S. to do — to introduce resolutions condemning serial violators like Sudan, Zimbabwe, and China, even if they are bound to fail.

The Europeans, by contrast, choose “consensus” as often as possible, which means granting a veto to the worst of the worst. For too many E.U. diplomats at the council, their real objective is to achieve the impression that the council is working, even when the opposite is true.

Since almost every resolution worth its salt will be automatically defeated by the repressive majority, the E.U. never introduced a single text for victims of major abusers like China, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Syria, Russia, Cuba, and so forth. That would only lead to a headline that the council failed in something — and that headline, above all, must be avoided.

Instead, the best we got on countries like Sudan were occasional, milquetoast resolutions, of the kind that praised the Al-Bashir regime for its “cooperation,” all adopted by consensus — we all are getting along fine, you see — so that the good citizens of London, Paris and Berlin could rest assured that “the council works,” and think their diplomats to be taking part in a noble body.

By contrast, Americans — Democrat or Republican — cannot stomach compromises that look like appeasement. Consensus as a virtue is big in Brussels, but it doesn’t play in Peoria. U.S. membership, therefore, will necessarily affect the culture among the Western group, strengthening some of the more principled E.U. states on the council, like the Netherlands.

To be sure, the U.S. must justify its council engagement by showing change in the Geneva atmosphere. This should start with the democracies. The U.S. must demand that the European Union withdraw its groundless opposition to Israel joining the council’s Western group — which the E.U. already allows in the New York-based U.N. bodies — thus putting an end to the injustice whereby Israel is the only country barred from joining any of the council’s five regional groups.

That small gesture would send an important signal that change is possible, and on an issue that more than any other has discredited the council.

For more on the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council, click here.

For general statistics on the UN Human Rights Council, see below.

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Jean Ziegler

Må jeg præsentere en af de nominerede kandidater til UNHRC (UN Human Rights Council), Jean Ziegler.

denne adresse kan man sende en protest mod nomineringen til de schweitziske ambassader.

Take Action!

Stop Jean Ziegler’s nomination to the UN Human Rights Council

Take Action On This Issue

The Swiss government has nominated Jean Ziegler — co-founder of the “Muammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize” — to represent the Western world as an expert at the UN Human Rights Council. Mr. Ziegler has supported Castro, Mugabe, Mengistu, Chavez, and other repressive rulers. He grossly abused the mandate of a previous UN post to pursue an extremist political agenda. Take action to stop this outrage. Send a message to Switzerland’s president and foreign minister, urging them to immediately cancel the nomination of Mr. Ziegler. Act Now: The election will be on March 26, 2008.

Man kan sende en petition herfra.