By Hillel Neuer
Now in its 29th session, we are asked by many to believe that the UN Human Rights Council is a serious, effective and credible body.
Leaked Saudi cables, however, document what we knew all along: that despite the UNHRC’s official membership criteria — “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto” — dictatorships strike backroom deals to elect each other onto the 47-nation body, in Kofi Annan’s words, “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.”
Amid the trove of Saudi diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks are at least a dozen that explain how the Saudis bought their seat with money, and by bartering their UN votes.
In this cable, Riyadh approves “one hundred thousand dollars” for their UNHRC “election campaign.” As there were no TV ads to win over the other UN ambassadors, what did the money go for?
In this cable, the Saudis approach the Russians for a deal:
The Government of Saudi Arabia has the honor to propose an arrangment of reciprocal suport wherein the Government of Saudi Arabia would gladly support the candidature of the Government of Russia to the Human Rights Council, on the understanding that the Government of Russia would also extend its valuable support to the candidature of Saudi Arabia for membership in the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the period 2013-2016 at the election to be held in May 2013.
Over the next two weeks, the UNHRC will be preoccupied with the report of its Commission of Inquiry into Israel’s alleged crimes in Gaza, expected to be released tomorrow.
While no EU states supported the one-sided inquiry when it was adopted last July, Russia and Saudi Arabia did.
And over the next two weeks, both Russia, which is waging a brutal war in Ukraine that has killed some 7,000 civilians, prompting no UN inquiry, and Saudi Arabia, whose indiscriminate bombing of Yemen is largely responsible for the 2200 killed, 10,000 wounded, 20 million in desperate need of aid, with no UN inquiry, will show solemn outrage over the report against Israel, and enthusiastically join the chorus of condemnation.