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  • U.S. Record to be Examined by the U.N.’s Underwhelming Human Rights Body

    A story by CNSNews today discussed how the U.S. State Department has been quietly holding meetings and soliciting comments on America’s human rights record for inclusion in a report it must submit this fall to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC). Designed to be an improvement over the discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the HRC has proven gravely disappointing. In its first four years, the HRC has been weak and ineffectual in promoting fundamental human rights, in large part because influential countries opposed to strong HRC scrutiny of human rights (e.g., China and Cuba) and groups such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference have been able to negatively influence council deliberations, resolutions, and decisions.

    Although frustrated with the neutered HRC, human rights advocates had held out hope that the saving grace of the Council would be the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Under the UPR, each of the U.N.’s 192 member states, including the sitting members of the HRC, must submit to a review of its human rights record. This was designed to prevent the HRC from emulating the old Commission’s practice selective of scrutiny. The U.S. report discussed in the CNSNEws story is the beginning of the process that every U.N. member state goes through once every four years under the Universal Periodic Review.

    Unfortunately, the UPR process – as with the broader human rights agenda in the U.N. system – has been hijacked. As I detailed in a 2009 report, the UPR procedures virtually ensure that if a country wants to bury criticism, it can. Contributions to the process by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are strictly curtailed. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) distills and summarizes NGO reports. Many NGOs have complained that the document prepared by the OHCHR ignored or did not include key issues. In addition, a number of countries have used points of order and other procedures to intimidate NGOs from making statements or to strike their comments from the record if the NGOs did not strictly reference comments in the report.

    This has resulted in farcical reviews of China, Cuba, and North Korea. China laughably claimed in its UPR report that it “adheres to the principle that all ethnic groups are equal and implements a system of regional ethnic autonomy in areas with high concentrations of eth­nic minorities,” that elections are “democratic” and “competitive,” that “citizens enjoy freedom of speech and of the press,” and that China respects the right to religious freedom. Cuba’s UPR report to the council claimed that “Cuba’s democratic sys­tem is based on the principle of ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’” and that the right to “freedom of opinion, expression and the press” is guaranteed and protected, as are the rights of assembly and peaceful demonstration. North Korea asserted that it “comprehensively provides” for fundamental rights and freedoms, including “the right to elect and to be elected, the freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, demonstration and association, the rights to complaints and petitions, work and relaxation, free medical care, education and social security, freedoms to engage in scientific, literary and artistic pursuits, and freedoms of residence and travel.”

    These fantastic reports were accepted at face value and acclaim by the majority of member states in the Council.

    Don’t expect a similar scene when the U.S. record is reviewed, however. First of all, the U.S. will go to great pains to highlight its human rights problems, flaws and concerns. This would have occurred regardless of who was in the White House – the U.S. has a long record of forthrightly admitting its foibles and shortfalls – but is likely to be further emphasized under the current administration. After all, President Obama’s most well-known foreign policy tactic is to apologize reflexively to foreign audiences.

    Countries like China and Cuba, deeply resentful of U.S. tendencies to criticize their human rights records, will seize with great glee the opportunity to hoist the U.S. up on its self-confessed petard of human rights problems. Human rights NGOs will eagerly join them to make sure that their complaints and concerns, submitted during the consultative process organized by the State Department in drafting its report and during the UPR process in Geneva, are amply highlighted. Don’t expect the U.S. to play the game of stuffing the Council’s queue with allies to lessen the time for critical comments.

    The U.S. UPR will inevitably be a painful and embarrassing process made more so by an Administration reluctant to robustly defend America’s human rights practices – especially those it strongly criticized during the presidential campaign.

    In the end, however, the predictable spectacle will reveal more about the dysfunction of the Human Rights Council than it will about the U.S. record on human rights. Perhaps the experience will lead the Obama Administration to reconsider its embrace of this failed institution.

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    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to U.S. Record to be Examined by the U.N.’s Underwhelming Human Rights Body

    1. Billie says:

      This is what obama set this country up for. That's why apology is his tactic.

      Time for the people of the world to realize, they are just as human as those that lead, only disruption and disrespect of human life of those that lead, are taking control over all of us. We the people are stronger then that. We the people have dignity, that lacks in governments around the world. American government is no exception.

      America conducts human rights according to civil principles. Civil law, when utilized properly, expects the same of all under the principles of civility.

      If the UN takes other countries at face value, America should not be any different. Of course, if obama's writing the American HR report or one of his other thugs????…

    2. stirling, Pennsylvan says:

      If the U.N was abolished the world would probably be a better place. America has become the world's punching bag for critisism, and welfare for many countries that should be funding their own military for defense. While we have made strides in the name of freedom to many, the downside is our support is one big government "Entitlement," which has made many other nations "Soft" and unwilling to do what is needed or required to handle the dangers in todays world. Human Rights are seen as a threat to those in power in most Socialist/Marxist/Communist/Dictator regiems which explains why their records are questionable. It would be nice if this administration did not treat it's own citizens who voice a different point of view the same way.

    3. okiejim says:

      Why do we even show up at these things? This council should be looking at the dictatorships around the world, not the most freedom loving, generous country in the world. It is another attempt by non-friendly countries to discredit us. Get rid of the UN now! If that is not possible, get it out of our country and cancel our membership. Then let's see how long they survive.

    4. Sam, Hailey, Idaho says:

      Overall this is a joke. There are two areas where human rights are violated in the U.S. that will not be mentioned in this report:

      1) We have killed millions of unborn babies

      2) We force unwanted, unnecessary and unfair regulations on our people.

      The U.S. is STILL the greatest country on earth despite the direction we are going. How long will we stay there?

    5. Angela Jessop, Pratt says:

      Of course, this is just my opinion, but from all that I've seen of Obama & his cronies, his sympathies seem to lean toward radical Islam (not out of religious belief – I think), but out of a desire to support anyone or anything that is hell bent on the detruction of America & our way of life.

    6. John, Illinois says:

      The UN really is a worthless, corrupt organization. We have to be there, unfortunately, but when it comes to human rights, the UN is about the worst. Countries that abuse human rights get off scot-free. Because of politics or economics, other countries look the other way when it comes to human rights violators. And, then, what has the UN to solve genocide or other human rights problems? Rwanda, Darfur, anyone??

    7. Jolean Hitchen Gentr says:

      I do not think that America needs to answer any of their questions! Our record of human rights should stand alone and no one ever need apologize for us anywhere at any time !!!! America has every right to hold it's head high and proud. If anyone thinks otherwise, try living outside this country and see what you think of it then!

    8. dixiepixie, Virginia says:

      This examination could be what some would call a "teachable moment". We could seize the opportunity to showcase our stand on human rights evidenced by specific examples of the application of those principles in our nation today. It may prove beneficial to all involved in the process, providing enlightenment to those nations not yet on board, and increasing resolve to promote human rights even more effectively at home. If approached in this manner, we all may win.

    9. paul turgeon home says:

      when are they going to move the home of dictators to eurpoe where it belongs?? maybe paris.

    10. Tiim AZ says:

      I don't think you've been paying any attention to the president since he took office. If you had you would know that his policy is to embrace failure. That includes failed institutions that hold the same contempt for America as this president does. I wonder if you will be able to realize this if the president is able to collapse America and rebuild it to his socialist liking?

    11. d.doe/kinnelon nj says:

      How long do we, "intelligent people of the world " finance this organization and put up with this left leaning & corrupt organization..

      Remove this organization from this country & put it were it belongs…"In a left wing leaning country" .

      Cut our contribution…..and support…………………………

    12. ron hansing, columbi says:

      Why do we continue to support the UN?????

    13. Pingback: Persevere » Blog Archive » U.S. Record to be Examined by the U.N.’s Underwhelming Human Rights Body

    14. Sheila Lynn Atlanta, says:

      It is my opinion America should refuse to be a part of the farce that is the UN. It appears they hate America as they keep their hands out for our money. The UN Human Rights Council is a joke considering members such as China, Cuba, et al. I would like to see them move overseas. Good riddance! (This is an uninformed view.)

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