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The Ambassador Doth Protest Too Much
Posted By Brett Schaefer On September 16, 2010 @ 12:00 pm In American Leadership | No Comments
Was it wise for the Obama administration to reverse the Bush administration’s policy of distancing the U.S. from the United Nations Human Rights Council? With the Council’s 15th session underway, it’s a question worth asking.
The Council has been receiving more attention than unusual lately because the administration recently submitted a report on the U.S. human rights record  for the Council’s Universal Periodic Review process. The report has led many to question what America gets out of membership on that body.
In response, the U.S. ambassador to the Council, Eileen Donahoe, penned a piece in The New York Times  filled with evasions, non sequiturs and platitudes. Donahoe lists a series of “accomplishments” supposedly wrought by U.S. membership on the Council. Among them:
But the U.S. can speak on any issue before the Council even if it is not a seated member. Any U.N. member state can. Speaking as a Council member carries no more weight than the U.S. would in speaking as a non-member.
These mandates were “reauthorized ,” not “authorized.” In the world of the Human Rights Council, that is not nitpicking as continuing a current practice is far easier than initiating a new one. If the U.S. wanted to flex the human rights muscles gained through Council membership, it would secure mandates investigating human rights practices in Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, Iran, or many other tough cases. It hasn’t and is not in a position to do so despite “engaging” the Council.
This is not an issue of U.S. leadership, but rather the Council’s lack of seriousness about human rights situations in the world’s brutal regimes and vulnerability to manipulation by those regimes. For instance, the U.S. was unable to get a Council resolution condemning Iran. The world had to settle for this instead:
The criticism, though much deserved, is far short of a resolution condemning Iran. The Council has never adopted any resolution critical of Iran. Neither has it created a mandate or special rapporteur to investigate Iran’s deplorable human rights record. Repressive regimes work together, nearly always successfully, to prevent such actions by the Council.
Ambassador Donahoe has not been successful in preventing this, however. The Council continues to create and support investigations of Israel for the offenses of defending itself against Hamas rocket attacks  on Israeli civilians and sea-borne invasions by “humanitarian” flotillas .
This is pure hokum. The nations that sit on the Council and in the Council chamber are there to advance their political agendas (e.g., demonizing Israel) and to protect their often deplorable human rights records. Whether they are doing so more politely since President Obama decided to join the Council is immaterial and laughable.
The resolution on freedom of expression that the U.S. co-sponsored with Egypt last year  was a step backwards from the proper understanding of the freedom of expression. Efforts continue at the Council to support a “defamation of religions” resolution that would infringe on all of those rights.
Nonetheless, the UPR reports by countries continue to be adopted without any serious question. Blatant lies  by Iran, China, Cuba, North Korea and others are accepted at face value by the Council. Resolutions accepting their farcical UPR reports pass without issue. No substantive advancement of human rights can be attributed to the process . Moreover, through its report the administration invited the Council to pass judgment over outstanding, unresolved legal disputes in the U.S. such as the Arizona immigration debate.
Donahoe’s main point boils down to this:
Now, more than ever, as it engages in a full review of its practices, the council needs robust U.S. participation. The United States should never relinquish authority on human rights, especially in an international forum.”
Nonsense. It is not a lack of confidence in U.S. power that leads to this conclusion; it is recognition of a rigged game. The design of the Human Rights Council enables human rights abusers to win seats on the Council and use their position to avoid serious scrutiny and counter the very purpose of the Council – to promote and protect fundamental human rights. The U.S. cannot change this through membership alone . Substantial changes to impose standards for Council membership are needed.
We agree that the U.S. should never relinquish its authority on human rights. Unfortunately, U.S. membership on the Council does just that, because it extends U.S. credibility and legitimacy to a body that does not deserve it.
Co-authored by Steven Groves.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/09/16/the-ambassador-doth-protest-too-much/
URLs in this post:
 report on the U.S. human rights record: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/146379.pdf
 penned a piece in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/opinion/14iht-eddonahoe.html
 reauthorized: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/special/countries.htm
 defending itself against Hamas rocket attacks: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/factfindingmission.htm
 invasions by “humanitarian” flotillas: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/RES.14.1_AEV.pdf
 resolution on freedom of expression that the U.S. co-sponsored with Egypt last year: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2009/11/the-un-human-rights-council-no-better-for-obamas-engagement
 Blatant lies: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/08/the-us-universal-periodic-review-flawed-from-the-start
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