Bolton's Warning; Annan Plan on Human Rights Is Badly Flawed

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Bolton's Warning; Annan Plan on Human Rights Is Badly Flawed


Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but that is exactly what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal to reform the deeply flawed U.N. Human Rights Commission is trying to do. Our outspoken U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, used a slightly more diplomatic metaphor when he denounced the efforts to replace the commission with a new Human Rights Council, calling it "not a butterfly," and he vowed to vote against the proposal. In this case, Mr. Bolton found backup from as strange a bedfellow as the New York Times editorial page, which tells you something about just how inadequate the reform proposal is.

Now, reform of the old Human Rights Commission is long overdue. The Geneva-based subsidiary of the United Nations has, in recent times, called unfavorable attention to itself by including in its membership of 53 egregious human-rights abusers, such as China, Libya, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The problem here is the U.N. system of regional representation, which allows each region to select its own representative regardless of the country's political system or human rights record. That is how, a few years back, we found Sudan on the Human Rights Commission, while the United States was deselected in the group of Western countries to which it belongs. This despite the fact that we continue to pay 22 percent of the commission's budget. It is also how, briefly, Saddam Hussein's Iraq took the chairmanship of the disarmament committee in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

It may also be noted that another U.N. organization, the U.N. Educational and Social Committee (UNESCO) just recently awarded President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela a human rights award, presented by none other than Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. This would be laughable were it not so outrageous.

Not surprisingly, countries with a poor record on human rights have used their membership to block any vote castigating their practices, while gleefully taking aim at others, usually the United States and Israel. The newly published U.N. Human Rights Commission report on Guantanamo Bay is a case in point. Without the U.N. rapporteurs ever going to the base and relying for a large part on newspaper accounts and former inmates, the report outrageously accuses the United States of engaging in torture and urges that "all persons found to have perpetrated, ordered, tolerated or condoned such practices, up to the highest level of military and political command be brought to justice. …

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