Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Eye on the UN: Human Rights Commission Stacked Against Israel

Ezra HaLevi

In elections held last week at the UN, Islamic nations increased their hold in the Human Rights Council.

“The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) increased its grip on the UN Human Rights Council,” reported Eye on the UN, a watchdog group that monitors the democratic nature and adherence to its mandate of the international body. “By electing Pakistan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso and Gabon, the OIC won an increased majority of seats in the African and the Asian regional groups taken together, which account for over half of the Council membership.”Eye on the UN Senior Editor Anne Bayefsky is not optimistic about the Human Rights Council, traditionally a group focused on condemning Israel, changing its ways. “The results will guarantee the Council will continue to use the mantra of human rights to undermine human rights protection and immunize human rights abusers,” Bayefsky said. “In its first two years, the domination of Islamic states has meant an attack on freedom of expression, an attempt to silence non-governmental organizations, and a pre-occupation on Israel to the exclusion of gross human rights violations the world over.”

The election reduced the number of free democracies on the council overall. “Before today, 49% Council members were ranked fully free by Freedom House statistics, but the election of Bahrain, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Zambia, means that only 22 of 47 of Council members are now fully free democratic states,” Bayefsky said. "Human rights abusers will therefore continue to dominate the UN's primary human rights body.”

The Council was created in 2006 to replace the UN Human Rights Commission, which had gained the reputation of being a front for anti-Israeli sentiment. According to the Eye on the UN report, however, the record of the new body includes: “Holding four special sessions on Israel and seven regular sessions on human rights covering all 192 UN members, eliminating human rights investigations on Cuba and Belarus, terminating behind-closed-door consideration of Iranian human rights abuses, and severely curtailing the investigation into abuses of freedom of expression. Furthermore, 60% of all Council resolutions and decisions critical of human rights protection in a specific state have been directed at Israel alone, while only four other UN states have been criticized at all.”

Eye on the UN praised the US for refraining from taking part in the council until it begins to be run fairly. "Clearly, the United States has made the right decision to stay off the Council and to refuse to lend it the credibility it does not deserve," Bayefsky said. "Congressional efforts to end U.S. funding for the Council are a move in the right direction."

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