by: Cheryl Hauer, Vice President
In March 2018, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held its 37th session in Geneva, Switzerland, with the purported goal of identifying human rights violations around the globe and making recommendations to UN member states on how they should be addressed. When looking at the world situation, one would think the Council would have had a plethora of violators to deal with. Not so, however. As the month-long gathering came to a close, tiny Israel again emerged as the worst human rights violator in the world today. A total of five anti-Israel resolutions were approved by the Council, including a call for the nations of the world to participate in an arms embargo against her. Despite an outcry from the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States calling the action a travesty, it was passed by a vote of 27–4 with 15 abstentions.
The UNHRC was created by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in March 2006 to replace its predecessor, the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights. The Council has 47 seats, divided among the UN’s five regional groups as follows: 13 from the African Group, 13 from the Asian Group, six from the Eastern European Group, eight from the Latin American and Caribbean Group and seven from the Western European and Others.
To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UNGA (an absolute majority). In electing Council members, the resolution provides that UNGA members “shall take into account the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.” An additional consideration should be whether the given candidate country can meet the obligations of Council membership, which include “to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council.”
The resolution further requires that the Council’s work “shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation with a view to enhance the promotion and protection of all human rights.”
Despite very clear guidelines (see side box), members of the Council have been identified by victims as countries that retaliate against citizens who attempt to help the UN with its human rights work in their countries. Burundi, Egypt, Rwanda, Cuba, Venezuela, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all Council members, have been accused of using arbitrary detention and torture, sexual assault, rape, abduction and unwanted psychiatric treatment against people whose only crime was to cooperate with UN institutions.
Saudi Arabia is a member in good standing and has actually overseen the influential UN panel on human rights that selects top officials who shape international human rights standards and reports on violations worldwide. Yet Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, according to UN Watch Director Hillel Neuer, who said, “This UN appointment is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief and underscores the credibility deficit of a human rights council that already counts Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela among its elected members.”
It is little wonder that the world looks on in disbelief as the Council is allowed to continue its outrageous campaign against Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, with members whose behavior is grotesquely in contradiction with the Council’s own charter. Since its inception, the Council has adopted 135 country-specific resolutions, more than half of which were against Israel. And Israel remains the only country in the world that has a permanent place on the Council’s agenda, requiring the Council to discuss three times each year any alleged abuses of human rights committed by Israel against Palestinians.
Nor is it any wonder that US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has said, “When the Human Rights Council treats Israel worse than North Korea, Iran and Syria, it is the Council itself that is foolish and unworthy of its name,” and Prime Minister Netanyahu declared the recent five resolutions as “more decisions disconnected from reality by the circus of the absurd called the Human Rights Council.”
Yet through it all, Israel continues to function as a vibrant democracy attempting to protect the rights of all of its citizens, including its minority populations, constantly reaching out to its neighbors in an effort to achieve peace, while the threat of war and terror remain business-as-usual. While Israeli innovation continues to make the world a better, healthier and safer place for all of mankind, the UNHRC continues its anti-Semitic vendetta with impunity. There is definitely something wrong with this picture.
According to its website, the resolution creating the Council gave it the following main responsibilities:
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