UN in need of major reform, expert says

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

According to Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based organization UN Watch, the United Nations new Human Rights Council “is just as cynical and useless as the UN Commission on Human Rights it replaced last year,” and the entire organization is in major need of structural and human rights reforms and protections.

Neuer, 36, who has been widely published in such publications as The International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, The New Republic Online and The Christian Science Monitor, was in St. Louis last week, where he met with local leaders of the St. Louis Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and was interviewed in its Clayton office by the St. Louis Jewish Light.

UN Watch is a non-governmental organization “that monitors the United Nations according to the principles of its charter, and promotes human rights for all,” Neuer told the Jewish Light.

The organization is described as “standing in the forefront of the battle against anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.” Based in Geneva, Switzerland, UN Watch was founded in 1993 by the late Morris Abram, former U.S. ambassador to the UN in Geneva and a leading advocate of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King.

Last year, the United Nations replaced the old and largely discredited UN Human Rights Commission with a reconstituted UN Human Rights Council, which Neuer denounces as “just as cynical and useless” as the entity it was supposed to reform and replace. “Last Friday,” Neuer said, “the (new) Council wrapped up its fourth session since its inception. Despite evidence from its own investigators that the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan is being perpetrated by that country’s dictatorial Islamist government, the Council was unable even to call the mass killings a genocide, much less pin the blame on Khartoum.”

Neuer blamed “Muslim and African representatives” for the failure of the commission, who blocked a stronger statement, permitting “only an expression of ‘deep concern’ for the murder of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of two million or more, and the systematic rape of women and girls.”

Neuer stressed, “the point of reconstituting the old Commission as the new Council a year ago, was to prevent such shams. But the new body has been as willfully blind as the one it superceded. The world would probably be better off it it were disbanded.” He added, “The unwillingness to ‘name names’ is part of a trend at the UN. Last fall, one of the General Assembly’s six standing policy committees recommended an end to ‘name and shame’ human rights reports that single out particular countries fro criticism. Human rights experts within the organization recommended, instead, working quietly with abuser nations to convince them to end the murder, torture, maiming and political imprisonment of dissident citizens. Some good that would do.”

Regarding the genocide in Sudan, Neuer pointed out that “China, itself one of the worst human rights abusers in the world, has long protected Sudan from censure at the UN, and has continued to prop up the Khartoum regime with trade and aid.”

While the UN Human Rights Council “has ignored crises all over the world, from Darfur to Zimbabwe to Central Asia to Arab-on-Arab killings in Gaza, has all the while been passing resolution after resolution against Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy.”

Asked how the United Nations, whose adoption of the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine made possible the creation of the modern State of Israel to have become so “obsessed” with condemning that very state, Neuer said back in the 1970s, “the former Soviet, Arab and Third World blocs began to twist the language of human rights to turn it, in an Orwellian way, against the only democracy in the Middle East. The low point was the 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism, which although later repealed, nontheless set the anti-Israel tone which continues.”

Neuer told the Jewish Light it is too early to tell if the new Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon of South Korea, will be more or less effective than his predecessor Kofi Annan. “Time will tell if he will be more secretary than general.”

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