Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blind eye: The NYT and the United Nations Human Rights Council 

The New York Times is running an editorial about the United Nations Human Rights Council that must have been calculated to drive conservatives insane. You can almost see the editorial board cackling nefariously as they wrote the thing. Read it if you have the emotional energy, but I've got the bullets:

  • The Bush administration boycotted the UN HRC because it disdained the United Nations.

  • It is good that the Obama administration has reversed that decision and the United States will join it.

  • The UN HRC is "an international embarrassment" because it selects its members the way all UN agencies do, by region rather than qualifications, so you have brutally oppressive regimes -- Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan -- sitting in judgment of human rights in decent countries.

  • It will be very hard for the Obama administration to "make the council credible," because many of the disgusting countries -- my term, not the Grey Lady's -- on the HRC are American strategic allies. But we still have to try.

  • Sadly, the editors completely ignore the two arguments against American involvement with the UN HRC: First, that there is no non-cynical rationale for the existence of the United Nations Human Rights Council as it is presently constituted, and, second, that American involvement will lend legitimacy to the farce.

    The Times simply does not explain why we should care at all about the Human Rights Council -- what good it might do that is not now done by other agencies or NGOs, for example, or what geopolitical advantage it might confer. Is this so obvious that everybody knows it? If so, I could use some help. The weight of evidence, as eloquently expressed in the same editorial, is to the contrary. Why does the world need the HRC in the first place?

    As the Times makes clear, the Human Rights Council is, by virtue of its membership, a farce. The question is whether it is a farce that we can ignore or that we have to pretend to support. If we call it what it is -- a farce, a joke, a propaganda vehicle for disgusting governments -- and boycott it we can ignore it and deprive it of whatever legitimacy American membership would confer. If we participate then we are saying at some basic level that we respect its judgments. That is, after all, the nature of honest participation in an organization: You agree to respect and abide by its decisions even if you personally disagree with them. The Times, it seems to me, ought to explain why increasing the legitimacy of the depraved Human Rights Council with American membership in return for a chance -- a small chance bordering on no chance -- at real reform is a good deal for either the United States or the victims of oppression around the world.


    By Blogger JPMcT, at Sat Apr 11, 11:59:00 AM:

    Unlike GW Bush, Obama is likely much more confortable with having a criminal element manning an oversight commission:

    Chris Dodd on the Senate Banking Cmte.

    Barney Frank on the House Financial Serv . CMTE.

    Governor Blagojevitch and the motley crew in Illinois

    and on and on....

    The US joining the HRC at the UN is only a little step deeper into the mud.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Apr 11, 02:29:00 PM:

    The Darfur Times is itself the farce, the UNHRC is merely an opportunity to put it on exhibit.  

    By Anonymous Human Rights Matter, at Fri Apr 17, 06:48:00 AM:

    What happens at the United Nations Human Rights Council matters. This is why oppressive regimes are active there. If human rights are to have a future arguments such as the universality of human rights must be won in the Council. The argument that human rights abuses should be called to account must be won there.  

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