The Human Rights Council’s official task is to advance human rights in the world. But there are severe problems in this United Nations body, to say the least. Germany just became a member again.
Berlin, October 12th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — The U.N.’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) does have a good name. Reading or hearing it will probably make people believe it actually advances human rights. And yes, this is exactly what some members want to do. But, so far, it has not really worked. Dictatorships with severe human rights problems on their own turf have been, and still are, part of the 47-member body.
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‘Poor Human Rights Records’
Before the latest vote, the NGO Human Rights Watch had listed this year’s candidates for the UNHRC in three categories. Six of them, namely Afghanistan, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Venezuela and Vietnam, were in the ‘Unqualified’ category because of “poor human rights records”. Another six countries, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Georgia, the Maldives, Morocco and South Africa, are part of the ‘Questionable’ rubric, for “problematic human rights and/or U.N. voting records”.
Six of those “unqualified” and “questionable” countries are new or reelected members of the Human Rights Council now. To the opinion of critics this is like making a pyromaniac fire chief. Algeria, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, Morocco and South Africa were elected or reelected on Tuesday. More issues are a foregone conclusion.
‘Mark of Confidence’
That is why Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the Geneva-based UNHRC was “not a perfect organization. But it is one of the most important tools we have, as the international community, in the fight against acute human rights violations. The Council gives us and our partners a forum in which wee can raise our voices for those who are not sitting at the table.” As examples, Mrs. Baerbock mentioned “the many courageous women and girls in Iran” who were risking their lives in their fight for their rights and for freedom. They could rely on Germany’s voice in Geneva as well.
The fact that Germany had just been elected a UNHRC member for another three years by 167 states was a mark of confidence, Annalena Baerbock stated in Berlin. Germany would not disappoint those who trusted it. She vowed to campaign against the prosecution of the worst human rights violations. “And we will advance aspects that count for hundreds of millions of people in the world, including the right for clean drinking water, the question of rights, ressources, the representation of women and marginalized groups as well as aspects of climate change.”
‘World’s Worst Regimes’
The Foreign Minister did list problems that exist outside the UNHRC, but not really the ones that keep on appearing in the body itself. There are plenty of the latter. According to UN Watch, the Human Rights Council “gives a global platform to dictators and their representatives.” The organization mentioned examples: “In March 2022, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed the Council, justifying Russia’s war in Ukraine and blaming it on the West. In February 2019, the Human Rights Council invited Iranian Vice President Laya Joneydi to address a high-level panel on multilateralism. The Iranian official used the platform to criticize America and the West.”
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The Council also “appoints dictatorships to leadership positions on key human rights panels.” It allowed repressive regimes “to cheat their regular human rights reviews (known as Universal Periodic Review) by arranging for fake NGO submissions praising their governments’ human rights records” and appointed “anti-Western and pro-dictatorship figures as human rights experts.” According to UN Watch, “serial violators of human rights” are Council members. On top of it all, the UNHRC “grants impunity for most of the world’s worst regimes.”
Obsession with Demonizing Israel
Obviously, all of the above is terrible already, but there is more: The Council hates one country on this planet, above all. ‘Coincidentally’, it is the only predominantly Jewish state in the world and the only democracy in the Middle East, a small nation of 9.2 million people. Israel has been demonized by the Human Rights Council for years. It has been condemned in more resolutions than any other country. The UNHRC has a “permanent agenda item” on Israel. The same country has been the subject of more special sessions than any other one, and more commissions of inquiry have been set up on Israel than on any other state.
This obsession with demonizing Israel goes even further: “The U.N. Human Rights Expert on Palestine is mandated only to investigate “Israel’s violations” of international law, and not violations by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Therefore, she routinely ignores abuses by Palestinian actors against the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, including Hamas rocket and terror attacks against Israelis, Palestinian Authority arbitrary arrest and torture of Palestinians, and Hamas torture and extrajudicial executions of Palestinians. Moreover, she repeatedly rejects Israel’s right to exist, justifies Palestinian attacks against Israelis, and defends terrorists.” There is a word for this kind of approach: antisemitism.