Issue 273: UN Watch Addresses U.S. Congress: “The State of Human Rights at the U.N.”

UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer Testifies Before U.S. Congress
UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer (center) addressed a U.S. congressional
hearing on “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action,”
Tuesday, Jan. 25. Also testifying were representatives of the Heritage Foundation,
the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the UN Foundation, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


“The State of Human Rights at the United Nations”

Testimony of Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch
Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, United States Congress
January 25, 2010
Distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. The urgent problem that I wish to address concerns the state of human rights at the United Nations.

The UN Human Rights Council this year undergoes a review of its first five years of work. How has it performed? Let us first recall the history. In 2005, then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan called to scrap the old Human Rights Commission.

He explained why. Countries had joined “not to strengthen human rights, but to protect themselves against criticism, or to criticize others.” The commission was plagued by “politicization” and “selectivity.” It suffered from “declining professionalism” and a “credibility deficit” — which “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.”

To remedy these fatal flaws, the UN created the new council one year later. The 2006 resolution promised a membership committed to human rights. The council would respond to severe abuses, including by urgent sessions. Its work would be impartial and non-selective.

Today, five years later, we ask: Has the new council redressed the shortcomings of its predecessor? Has it lived up to its promise?

To answer, let’s look, first, at the council’s current members. They include: Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The newest member is Libya, under the dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi. As measured by Freedom House, 57%of the members fail to meet basic democracy standards.

Mr. Chairman, “Imagine a jury that includes murderers and rapists, or a police force run in large part by suspected murderers and rapists who are determined to stymie investigation of their crimes.” Those quoted words were said by Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch in 2001, but the analogy applies even more today.

Second, let’s look at the council’s response over the past five years to the world’s worst human rights violations. Here’s what we find:

•   For the one-fifth of the world’s population living in China, where millions have suffered gross and systematic repression, for the minority Uighurs who have been massacred, for the Tibetans killed — the council adopted not a single resolution. Its response was silence.

•   For the peaceful civic activists, bloggers and dissidents in Cuba, who are beaten or languish in prison — no resolutions.

•   For the victims of Iran, massacred by their own government while the Human Rights Council was actually in session, subjected to torture, rape and execution– no action.

•   For the women of Saudi Arabia who are subjugated, where rape victims are sentenced to lashes — the council, looked away.

•   For the people of Zimbabwe, who continue to suffer under the jackboot of the Mugabe regime–no resolutions.

Mr. Chairman, apart from a handful of exceptions, the UN Human Rights Council, in the five years of its existence, has systematically turned a blind eye to the world’s worst abuses, failing the victims most in need. You may ask, then: What does it do with its time? I will tell you.

To an astonishing degree, the council has reserved its moral outrage for demonizing one single country, Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.


1.   In total, the council has adopted some 50 resolutions that condemn countries. Of these, 35 have been on Israel — i.e. 70%. All have been one-sided condemnations that grant impunity to Hamas and Hezbollah, and to their state sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

2.   Built into the council’s permanent agenda is a special item on Israel. No other country is singled out in this fashion.

3.   Out of 10 special sessions that criticized countries, six were on Israel–and four for the rest of the world combined.

4.   The council’s machinery of fact-finding missions exists almost solely to attack Israel. The most notorious example is the Goldstone Report, a travesty of justice that excoriated Israel and exonerated Hamas. This was not surprising given that the mission operated according to a prejudicial mandate, with a predetermined verdict, and with members such as Christine Chinkin, who declared Israel guilty in advance.

5.   The council has a permanent investigator, Richard Falk, mandated to report on “Israel’s violation of the principles of international law.” Mr. Falk also happens to be one of the leading proponents of the conspiracy theory that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job, orchestrated by the U.S. government.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the promises of the council’s founding resolution– improved membership, action for victims, an end to politicization and selectivity — have not been kept. On the contrary: If we consider the fatal flaws identified by Kofi Annan in the old commission, every single one applies equally today to the new council.

(This speech was published as an op-ed on Thursday in Canada’s National Post. The full version of the written testimony was entered into the Congressional record, available here.)
UN Watch