by Anne Bayefsky
On Thursday, the General Assembly elected 14 members to its top human-rights body, the U.N. Human Rights Council. U.N. human-rights policymakers now include
Obama's diplomats, sitting in the General Assembly Hall throughout the election, made no attempt to prevent the farce or even to object. On the contrary, Ambassador Susan Rice left the hall before the results were announced in order to hightail it to the microphone. Attempting to spin what was a foregone conclusion, she refused to divulge those states which the
Not constructive because, Rice suggested, it was no big deal. She described the countries on the Council — which include human-rights experts
Rice was also asked to defend last month's deal, made with the help of the Obama administration, which saw
The results mean that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has tightened its grip on the Human Rights Council. OIC states garnered 70 percent of the seats allotted to each of the African and Asian regional groups, the two blocs that together form the Council majority. The number of fully free democracies went down and stands below 50 percent.
The whole election was in fact a charade — or, as Ambassador Rice described it euphemistically after leaving early, "there is not a great deal of suspense." The number of open seats for the Council equalled the number of candidates. Nevertheless, according to the rules, candidates could have been defeated if they had failed to garner 97 votes — a majority of Assembly members.
Rice's remarks made it clear, however, that the Obama administration is heavily invested in propping up the U.N. as a serious place to protect rights, prevent nuclear nonproliferation, and deal with
The fiction of a credible human-rights body suits the president's foreign policy just fine. It explains his decision last year to join the Council and to pick up 22 percent of the tab. The fact that the Council's main priority is to demonize
The Council was established in 2006 as a reform of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. The membership of the old Commission had made it a laughing-stock, so the Bush administration demanded that there be serious qualifications to join the new Council. No one else but a handful of states, such as
The consequence of a U.N. commitment?
Here is what got
A glance at the 2009 State Department Human Rights Report indicates that Libya mysteriously neglected to mention a few things about what Ambassador Rice would call its "orientation and perspectives": Security personnel engage in routine torture and abuse of detainees and have the authority to sentence the political opposition without trial; the law sanctions amputation and flogging; President Qadhafi can interfere with judges at will; and women and girls may be detained indefinitely after having been raped for violating moral codes.
In the end, nothing said or left unsaid made any difference. Not to the U.N. and not to President Obama. In a very dangerous state of affairs, the pretence of a legitimate U.N. Human Rights Council is politically advantageous both to Islamic states seeking to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state and to the Obama administration.
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