U.N. Human Rights Panel Bashes Israel

For many years, the old United Nations Human Rights Commission was a prime example of the degree to which the world body had sunk. The old Human Rights Commission, which a year ago was replaced by a new Human Rights Council, had been criticized for allowing voting membership by such infamous regimes as those in Sudan, Cuba, Libya and Zimbabwe. Not only were these nations led by regimes with some of the worst records of human rights violations, but they used their membership on the Commission to block any meaningful action by the panel to curb those abuses. The old Commission never hesitated, however, to repeatedly and harshly adopt resolutions branding Israel as a major violator of human rights. A New York Times article by Warren Hoge last Sunday reports that the so-called “new and reformed” United Nations Human Rights Council has provoked “dismay” because of its “inaction on Darfur and focus on Israel,” which has angered activists who had insisted that the old commission be replaced.

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan had commented that the old commission had “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole,” and with his backing the United Nations General Assembly, by a vote of 170-4 last year created the new U.N. Human Rights Council. The Times quotes Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that monitors human rights worldwide as saying of the new Council, “so far it’s been enormously disappointing, and the opponents of human rights enforcement are running circles around the proponents.”

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Sadly, the new Council is just old wine in a new bottle in terms of its actual effect on real-life human rights crises like the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, which has already claimed at least 200,000 lives and as many as 400,000, according to reliable estimates. Hoge points out that member countries from Africa and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an association of 57 nations supporting Muslim unity, “have dashed those hopes by voting as a bloc to stymie Western efforts to direct serious attention to situations like the killings, rapes and pillage in the Darfur region of Sudan, which the United Nations has declared the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

While it horribly and inexcusably neglects to take action to stop the genocide in Sudan, “the council has focused its condemnation almost exclusively on Israel, (having) passed eight resolutions against Israel, and the Islamic group is planning four more for the current session,” according to Hoge, who adds that “the council has cited no other country for human rights violations.” R. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, was quoted as saying the anti-Israel focus of the council was one of the reasons the United States voted against creating the new panel last year, noting “It spent the entire year slamming Israel,” and that it had conducted formal hearings against Israel “but not against Burma and not against Zimbabwe and not against North Korea and not against Iran.” Kofi Annan’s successor as U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, told a human rights gathering last year that he was “worried by its disproportionate focus on violations by Israel,” adding that the council “has clearly not justified all the hopes so many of us placed on it.”

The new secretary general’s elegant diplomatic description of his concern does little to offer assurances that matters will improve at the new Human Rights Council any time soon. Peter G. Splinter, the Amnesty Interational representative in Geneva said that he was “not optimistic” that the Council will take any meaningful action on Sudan’s refusal to allow a U.N. assessment mission into Darfur.

Once again, the United Nations, the world body that was created amid such high hopes on the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust, has failed to meet its obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Genocide Convention. Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is again being singled out repeatedly for alleged human rights violations in a country in which Arabs and Jews, Christians and Muslims have full human and religious rights, while the genocide in Darfur goes unpunished. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has sabotaged the work of the new Human Rights Council and doomed it thus far to the same record of dismal failure as the old Human Rights Commission it was supposed to replace.