Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Human Rights

This is a wonderful article on the UN Commission on Human Rights on Read the whole thing, but I especially found these parts excellent.

First, a straight listing of some members of the Commission:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a precious jewel, and that precious jewel is now under attack.

The attack is from within. It's no surprise. The current members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights include infamous human rights violators: Sudan, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Russia. Past members included Syria, Libya, and Vietnam. Do we need a reminder?

Sudan was elected to the Human Rights Commission by a majority vote of the General Council in 2004, in the middle of its ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region.
China is run with an iron fist by the Communist Party. Human Rights Watch has called it a “highly repressive state.”
Cuba’s prisons are still full of old and new political dissenters 45 years after Castro’s bloody rise to power.
Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe is notorious for ordering racist anti-white violence, expelling foreign journalists, and rigging his own re-elections.
Saudi Arabia stamps out free speech, crushes political parties, permits wife-beating, and absolutely prohibits any expression of Christianity.
Venezuela is a budding dictatorship. President Hugo Chavez has a tight grip on all three branches of government. The guise of democracy makes his antics doubly dangerous.

Second, there was Kofi Annan's request that members give in suggestions - and the United States response - as to how to fix the United Nations.

A jaw-dropping list of scandals within the United Nations, featuring Iraqi oil-for-food corruption and widespread sexual abuse by U.N. peace workers, has Secretary-General Kofi Annan under fire. He has promised to restore credibility to the organization and he knows his legacy depends on it. At the heart of his plan is an overhaul of the discredited Commission on Human Rights. He requested proposals from the 191 member states, and he got a proposal from the United States that was clear and bold:

• Limit commission membership to 30. This would encourage the election of those states with the best human rights records.
Exclude the membership of any country under Security Council sanctions for human rights violations or terrorism.
• Change election rules to require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.
• Establish regular commission meetings and a trigger mechanism to call for additional sessions as needed.

So, did Annan listen? No.

The president of the General Assemby unveiled last Thursday the final proposal — it was unclear and cowardly. In his plan:

Any country can be elected regardless of Security Council sanctions for human rights abuse.
• The vague suggestion that a state’s human rights record be “taken into account” is purposely left toothless.
• States must rotate off every two terms. The principal human rights watchdog, the United States, would be off the council at least three years of every nine.
• The balance of power is shifted away from Western regions toward Asia and Africa, where human rights abuses have historically been highest.
A minority of one-third of member states can call a special session. That’s a sure guarantee that the United States and Israel will continually be hauled into court on trumped-up charges. U.N. history is full of examples.
A vague clause was added to shield Muslim countries from critique.
Democratic governments will continue to be a membership minority.

The secretary-general recognized the proposal’s incongruence with his original plan, but strangely called for a hurried vote of approval (remember, his legacy depends on it). Read more. Said Annan, “The proposal isn't everything I asked for, but it is a credible basis to move ahead. There are enough new elements for us to be able to build on.”

Sad. There's a lot more in the article - read the rest.

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