The United Nations formed the Council on Human Rights in early 2006. It came to be because the UN deplored its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded in 2005 after years of angry criticism—primarily over the composition of its membership. Too many human rights offenders were elected to the commission, among them, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. The crowning blow was the election of Sudan to the commission during the height of the Darfur ethnic-cleansing massacre.
The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC's forty-seven seats. The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
If contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights of its candidate states were anything to go by, then it’s time to disband the United Nation Human Rights Council.
Just look at the latest appointees to the council, whose job is to promote universal respect and protection for human rights around the world. This month, Russia, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia were elected to three-year terms. On the council, they join more than 40 other states, including Pakistan, Congo, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, and Venezuela—some of the world’s worst human-rights malefactors.
Think about it: China right now is helping Russia prop up Bashar al-Assad, while Saudi Arabia is helping the other side, the rebels against Assad. Russia has held members of the Pussy Riot punk band in prison for almost two years because of a protest performance in which they dared to criticize Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
Not long ago, a teenage Saudi girl was gang raped by seven men—and then sentenced to 90 lashes and six months in prison for being alone with a man. The international outrage was so great that Saudi King Abdullah had little choice but to pardon her.
Cuba, of course, is a longtime unremitting dictatorship that does not allow freedom of speech, movement—even professional occupation.
As UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group, put it: “This is a recipe for disaster. By electing massive abusers of human rights to the very body charged with protecting them, the UN is about to drop more rotten ingredients into the soup. We should not be surprised by the results.” The new members “should be in the dock of the accused, not sitting on high as prosecutor and judge.”
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, said his state’s council representative will give priority to combating racism, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance—in other words, common criticisms of Russia.
China is probably joining to protect itself from justified criticism for its many human-rights failings. China’s own vision of foreign policy is that no nation has the right to criticize the internal affairs of other states. With that philosophy, how can China even pretend to do its work on the council?
By Jennifer Birich
Photo-Credit: AFP- United Nations Rights Council chamber-Photo