Thursday, March 16, 2006
Another UN body to bash Israel with
Yesterday a new UN human rights body was established. The new UN Human Rights Council will replace the controversial Human Rights Commission. Almost every single nation voted for the changes that were made, and only four nations stood against it. Israel and the United States were two of them.
The US has argued that right abusers could still be elected to the new body under the proposed rules. World leaders at September's UN summit decided to create a new council to replace the commission, which has been criticized for allowing some of the worst rights-offending countries to use their membership to protect one another from condemnation. In recent years, members have included Sudan, Libya, Zimbabwe and Cuba.
The Americans want members of the council to be elected by a two-thirds vote, not the simple majority now called for, to help keep rights abusers out. They also want the text to explicitly bar any nation from joining the council if it is under sanction by the United Nations. The current draft says only that such measures would be taken into account when deciding membership.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev explained Israel's opposition to the new proposal saying that UN bodies designed to deal with human rights have, over the years, become "vehicles for singling out Israel, and for Israel bashing."
Regev said that although Israel welcomed the pursuit of a new human rights framework at the UN, it feels that "some of the problems in the previous structure are present in the current structure as well. We are concerned that it could still be manipulated to advance an extremist anti-Israel agenda, instead of promoting human rights."
Will the Human Rights Council be any better than the Human Rights Commission? Human rights groups had long been critical of the Commission for not dealing with some of the most egregious human rights abuses around the world. With members such as Cuba, Sudan, Syria and China, and under the Chairmanship of Libya, Human Rights Watch referred to the commission as an "abusers club" of governments who are hostile to human rights.
The Commission on Human Rights routinely adopted totally disproportionate resolutions concerning Israel. Of all condemnations of this agency, 26 percent refer to Israel alone, while rogue states such as Syria and Libya were never criticized. The biggest losers again stand to be the people whose human rights are really being affected. If the new body gets bogged down in the politicisation of constantly attacking Israel, then people will suffer who look to the UN for help.
It is completely understandable that Israel and the US should have a problem with this new body with memories of the old commission fresh in their minds. The United States was kicked off the U.N. Commission for Human Rights in May 2001, despite being one of the most outspoken advocates for human rights and a founding member of the Commission. It was replaced by Sierra Leone and the Sudan, both of which have records of abuses of human rights, including slavery and the forced use of children as soldiers.
Let us hope there is going to be change and the new UN Human Rights Council really does look at the true human rights abusers in this world. I would like to be optimistic that it will, but I doubt it.