The shock of Libya’s election to the UN Human Rights Council last Thursday continues to reverberate around the globe.
In Europe, today the France 24 news channel reported that the UN’s elevation of the Qaddafi regime “has been met with outrage the world over and is echoed on the web.” Berlin’s Morgen Post, Germany’s second most-read daily newspaper, called it a “success for Muammar Qaddafi,” and reported that “human rights groups are appalled.” Switzerland’s 20 Minuten, the country’s most widely read daily, noted that Libya continues to hold Swiss hostage Max Göldi, and that some consider the UN council “a cartel of perpetrators” that makes sure nothing that could potentially harm their power is even discussed much less decided.”
In America, the Associated Press headlined their story, “UN elects rights violators to Human Rights Council.” The New York Daily News criticized the fact that “America failed to raise a voice in condemnation.” The New York Daily Sun commented that “There was little the American ambassador here, Susan Rice, could do today to stop the General Assembly from voting Libya and other known rights abusers for a seat on the Human Rights Council, but instead of expressing outrage, she chose to praise the United Nations’s least praiseworthy body.” See stories below.
All of these articles cited UN Watch’s leadership of the international Stop Qaddafi campaign.
“…The organization UN Watch has not hidden its anger over the result of the vote. This NGO had been campaigning for a long time, trying to mobilize heads of state to stop the election of Libya, a country with little respect for human rights…” – “Thai web users bear witness to the violence that has rocked Bangkok,” France 24, May 17, 2010.
“…Eine Gruppe von 37 Menschenrechtsgruppen hatte Libyen und Gaddafi schwere Vergehen vorgeworfen und schwere Schäden für das UN-Gremium gesehen. ‘Bei der Wahl eines Landes, das ständig die Menschenrechte verletzt, verletzen die Vereinten Nationen ihre eigenen Werte, ihre eigene Logik und ihre eigene Moral,’ sagte UN-Watch-Chef Hillel Neuer. – “Gaddafi zieht in UN-Menschenrechtsrat ein,” Berliner Morgenpost, May 16, 2010.
“…Die 47 Mitglieder werden aus kontinentalen Gruppen gewählt. Afrika und Asien sind mit je 13 Sitzen vertreten. Lateinamerika und die Karibikstaaten verfügen über acht, Osteuropa über sechs Sitze und Westeuropa sowie die restlichen Staaten über sieben. Die Nichtregierungsorganisation UN Watch untersucht die Aktivitäten und Beschlüsse der UNO, insbesondere des Menschenrechtsrats…'” – Daniel Huber, “Warum der zweifelhafte rat blind ist,” 20 Minuten, May 15, 2010.
“‘…Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva based NGO, UN Watch, headed a diverse global coalition of 37 human rights groups that fought to defeat Libya’s candidacy, with appeals urging the US and the EU to lead an opposition campaign. Unfortunately, that campaign fell on deaf ears. Following Libya’s election, Neuer said: ‘By electing serial human rights violators, the U.N. violates its own criteria as well as common sense. Choosing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to judge others on human rights is a joke… he’ll use the position not to promote human rights but to shield his record of abuse, and those of his allies’…” – Arsen Ostrovsky, “Libya elected to UN Human Rights body,” Frum Forum, May 14, 2010.
“…Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, dismissed the results, saying, ‘What we have this year is a farce. We have elections without competition. That makes no sense. We have countries like Libya that have atrocious human rights records…'” – Antoine Blua, “Rights Groups Dismayed Over Libya’s Election To UN Human Rights Council,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 14, 2010.
With hardly a whisper of protest by the United States, the UN General Assembly yesterday bestowed a seat in the world body’s Human Rights Council to Moammar Khadafy’s Libya.
Which is worse? That the vote was a landslide for Libyan membership? Or that America failed to raise a voice in condemnation? We’ll pick silence by the U.S. because it showed a disturbingly tolerant attitude by the globe’s primary hope for moral leadership.
The assembly gave 155 of 188 ballots to a country where speaking your mind can be a capital offense, while also electing other tyrannies – Angola, Qatar, Mauritania and Malaysia – by even larger margins.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice lamely sighed that the Human Rights Council “remains flawed,” and she declined to say whether she had voted against Libya.
Before the vote, she predicted that “a small number of countries whose human rights record is problematic … are likely to be elected.”
Libya isn’t “problematic.” It’s a horror. Now it joins such kindred spirits as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia on the 47-member council, which spends most of its energy ranting about Israel as it averts its eyes from real human rights horrors – human trafficking, genocide, genital mutilation – that occur anywhere else.
According to UN Watch, a nongovernmental monitor, the council now has a 60% majority of member countries that are not free or democratic. Which is all the more reason the U.S. should have spoken out rather than continue down President Obama’s futile path of obsequiously trying to reform the council from within.
– “Unspeakable silence: U.S. stands by as Libya wins seat on UN rights council,” NY Daily News, May 14, 2010.
“…La Libia di Muammar Gheddafi e la Thailandia, insanguinata da rivolte e repressioni, sono state elette oggi, assieme ad altri dodici Paesi, al Consiglio dei diritti umani delle Nazioni Unite, suscitando le veementi critiche di organizzazioni non governative come UN Watch e Freedom House. Secondo Hillel Neuer, responsabile dell’organizzazione UN Watch, ‘scegliere il dittatore libico Muammar Gheddafi per giudicare altri sui diritti umani è una barzelletta…'” – “Diritti Umani: Libia-Thailandia elette consiglio ONU Ginevra; ONG furenti, Gheddafi e’ Barzelletta. Iran in commissione donne,” ANSA, May 13, 2010.
“…Immediatamente i rappresentanti delle organizzazioni non governative come Un Watch e Freedom House sono insorte contro la decisione ridicolizzandola: ‘Scegliere il dittatore Muammar Gheddafi per guidicare altri sui diritti umani è una barzelletta dichiara Hillel Neuer direttore di Un Watch . Le elezioni senza competizione non hanno senso…'” – Giampaolo Pioli, “Gheddafi beffa tutti: garante dei diritti umani; Il Rais conquista un’ambita poltrona all’Onu,” ANSA, May 13, 2010.
“According to a press release from UN Watch, a Geneva based non-governmental organization, ‘to date, the council has adopted 40 censure resolutions, of which 33 have targeted Israel… Out of nine emergency sessions that criticized countries, six were against Israel’...“ – UN Watch quoted in Ben Evansky, “Libya wins seat on UN Human Rights Council,” Fox News, May 13, 2010.
“…A coalition of 30 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in Geneva had called on the US and the European Union to block Libya, which received 115 votes. Those NGOs criticized other countries including Thailand and Malaysia for failing to respect human rights, but Thailand received 182 votes and Malaysia 179 votes. ‘To see Libyan dictator Col Moammar Qaddafi judge others on human rights will turn the UN council into a joke,’ said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva…'” – “Libya, Thailand among newly elected Human Rights Council members,” Deutsche Presse Agentur, May 13, 2010.
U.S. envoy praises U.N. council on human rights as Libya is seated
May 13, 2010
There was little the American ambassador here, Susan Rice, could do today to stop the General Assembly from voting Libya and other known rights abusers for a seat on the Human Rights Council, but instead of expressing outrage, she chose to praise the United Nations’s least praiseworthy body.
Ms. Rice couldn’t even bring herself to condemn Libya’s specific human rights record or even tell reporters how America voted in the General Assembly, where 155 of the 192 members deemed the Colonel Gadhafi tyranny fit to sit in judgment of other countries’ human rights record.
The game, it turns out, was rigged, 14 countries having run for 14 available seats on the 47-member Geneva-based rights body. They were all pre-selected by regional groups, some of which include a plurality of countries that care little about human rights violations within their own borders. For countries that do, there was little recourse other than voting against the most flagrant violators and publicizing their opposition.
“As you know, having covered this institution for a while, the United States doesn’t reveal for whom we vote,” Ms. Rice told a reporter who asked about how she had voted on Libya and other rights violators like Mauritania, Angola, Qatar, Thailand, and Malaysia, who secured their new council seats. “I’m not going to sit here and name names,” Ms. Rice said.
Libya received the fewest number of votes in today’s secret ballot, and diplomats say most Western countries likely withheld support. Is Ms. Rice acting the tactful diplomat, assuming that criticizing Libya now would prevent unnecessary Geneva clashes later? Is she trying to maintain the careful balance that Washington has tried to strike of late in its relations with Tripoli?
Either way, Ms. Rice oddly declined to oppose publicly Libya’s council seat. An American diplomat told me that keeping a secret U.N. ballot secret was a long tradition that both Republican and Democrat administrations hold dear.
But in 2003, in a similar circumstance, America openly and publicly fought against Libya’s chairmanship of the Commission on Human Rights. It was that public American fight against Mr. Gadhafi that led enough U.N. members to recognize how ill-suited the Commission was for dealing with human rights. It also hastened the demise of that futile body.
Locked in several other struggles with the Bush Administration, Secretary General Annan, in office at the time, proposed forming a new rights body, and the Human Rights Council was born in 2006.
The American envoy at the time, Ambassador Bolton, warned that the new body was no real improvement and predicted that it will soon prove even worse than its predecessor. The Bush administration voted against the Council’s establishment, declined to run for a seat, and withheld funding from it.
As soon as President Obama acceded, Ms. Rice lobbied for a change of course. America soon joined and cheered the Human Rights Council even as the Council resumed its Israel-bashing, including the establishment of the Goldstone Commission to assure Israel’s condemnation for alleged war crimes in Gaza. Geneva also maintained its failure to address seriously flagrant violations anywhere else, including in Sudan, North Korea, Sri Lanka or Burma or to air the stifling of rights in places like China, Egypt, Cuba or Saudi Arabia.
America “joined the Human Rights Council a year ago because we feel very firmly that the promotion and protection of human rights internationally is a core value of the United States and a fundamental cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy,” Ms. Rice told reporters.
She acknowledged that the council “has not lived up to its potential, and remains flawed,” but also insisted that “it is preferable to work from within to shape and reform a body with the importance and potential of the Human Rights Council, rather than to stay on the sidelines and reject it.”
Rights organizations like U.N. Watch and Freedom House warn that the election of members like Libya dilutes the power of those who care about human rights. In today’s council, democracies hold only 40% of the seats – down from 49% last year.
So even as in New York Ms. Rice says that she’s making inroads in her struggle against Human Rights Council proposed resolutions like a ban on “defamation of religion,” there’s now a better chance that in Geneva such a resolution – which clearly violates America’s First Amendment – will sail through.
“…Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, which heads a coalition of 37 human rights organizations that campaigned for the U.S. and European Union to defeat Libya’s candidacy, said that ‘by electing serial human rights violators, the U.N. violates its own criteria as well as common sense…’“ – “UN elects rights violators to Human Rights Council,” Associated Press, May 13, 2010.