Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Eye on Human Rights

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Eye on Human Rights

Article excerpt

After five years in the United Nations system, I did not think anything at the Commission on Human Rights could surprise me. I was wrong. The level of politicization and cynicism was far greater than I expected.

While there were many lowlights during the six-week session that concluded April 18, the two most striking were: China's muscle-flexing to deflect criticism and the resulting derailment of the commission's machinery; and the Palestinian representative's baseless charge against Israel, along with the international community's unwillingness to censure him.

These failings overshadowed some important developments. Norway called for multilateral sanctions against Iran for the latter's refusal to lift the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. Italy sponsored a resolution against the death penalty that was adopted decisively. And a trio of nongovernmental organizations craftily read out a statement by the leader of the East Timor resistance, Jose Ramos-Horta, who, though a Nobel Peace Prize winner, had been refused a chance to speak before the commission. Unfortunately, these and other highlights were lost in the din. China historically has let it be known that votes cast at the UN against its interests would not be taken kindly. Witness hapless Guatemala, which has supported Taiwan's bid to become a member of the United Nations. China vetoed a reasonable Security Council draft resolution to send peacekeepers to Guatemala to help implement long-awaited peace accords there. China later relented, but its point was made. The Commission on Human Rights has treated China with kid gloves, yet China entered this year's commission with a "take no prisoners" approach. Intimidation tactics included interrupting several speakers on the floor. On numerous occasions, China challenged the chairman, Amb. Miroslav Somol of the Czech Republic, on "procedural" grounds. …

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