Geneva and Washington, September 6, 2006 — Testifying this afternoon before the United States Congress, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer will deliver a 40-page report by the Geneva-based organization, entitled “Reform or Regression?” , documenting a serious crisis of credibility in the new United Nations Human Rights Council and naming democracies that supported counter-productive actions. The testimony and report assess the Council’s first three months, in which it held three sessions.
The report concludes that, although future improvement is still possible, the Council’s record so far has been profoundly disappointing. Despite a slightly better membership than its predecessor, the Council is still dominated by non-democracies and in particular by members of the UN’s Islamic group, who, according to Mr. Neuer, “have been willing, and unfortunately all too able, to subvert the Council for narrow political ends.”
As a result, the Council has ignored the vast majority of the world’s human rights violations. Even the dire situation in Darfur merited only passing mention by a few members, and resulted in no Council statement or action against Sudan. The Council instead has devoted most of its debate, 100% of its resolutions dealing with specific countries, two special sessions, one fact-finding mission, and a high-level commission of inquiry to one-sided, politically motivated condemnations of Israel, all of which granted effective immunity to the actions of Hezbollah and Hamas.
Mr. Neuer noted that the Islamic group was aided in this endeavor not only, predictably, by repressive regimes like China, Cuba, and Russia, but also, disappointingly, by some of the Council’s free, democratic members. “That countries like Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and Uruguay would, in Senator Moynihan’s memorable words, ‘join the jackals,’ is deeply disturbing,” said Neuer. “Their fellow democracies must encourage them to do better in the future.”
As the report documents, only a minority of eleven Council members — Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom — have consistently defended the values and principles that the Council is meant to promote.
“Supporters of a credible, effective Human Rights Council — member states, UN officials, human rights NGOs, and others — must act now to prevent the Council from meeting the same fate as its discredited and now-defunct predecessor,” said Mr. Neuer. “We hope that at its September session, the Council takes steps to redeem itself, including by demonstrating that it is willing and able to take specific action against some of the many countries in the world today that violate human rights.”
Despite claims by senior UN officials that the Council represented the “dawning of a new era,” the report shows that the goal of real reform remains elusive. “Only by honestly addressing both the Council’s strengths and weaknesses will the cause of reform be advanced,” said Neuer. “Complacency in the face of this serious credibility crisis will only lead the Council down the same ignominious path as the old Commission. But if we act now — with conviction and alacrity — the Council may yet meet a better fate.”