Once again, the United Nations has damaged its own purported values and reason to exist when it praised Libya’s human rights record last Tuesday while condemning America’s. This time round, it was the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) serving as the vehicle for the world body’s latest exercise in hypocrisy.
After a review of Libya’s human rights record Tuesday morning, HRC members exhibited their moral decay when they lavished praised on the North African dictatorship of Libyan strongman Muammar Gadaffi. Almost simultaneously, it adopted a report containing 228 recommendations regarding America’s human rights situation.
The recommendations are based on criticisms from other countries and NGOs, some of which undoubtedly harbor anti-American sentiments. State Department legal adviser Harold Kohl alluded to the report’s political background when he called some of the recommendations “political provocations.”
But the HRC’s political bias and the questionable morality of some of its members did not prevent Michael Posner, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, from spending three hours testifying before it last Friday. As if that wasn’t humiliating enough, it was equally embarrassing Posner acknowledged before such human rights disasters as Cuba, Mauritania and Angola that there was “imperfection” in America’s human rights record.
“Though we are proud of our achievements, we are not satisfied with the status quo,” Posner said.
Considering the HRC’s political nature, one could almost have written the report condemning the United States in advance. According to one account, it included the usual indictments such as the Guantanamo Bay prison facility and accusations of torture against the US military. Also mentioned was overcrowding in American prisons, the need to ratify international conventions on women and children and that “discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the U.S.” All in all, standard accusations from the leftist, anti-American playbook.
The report on Libya, on the other hand, reflected a human rights paradise. The report drew praise from other UN members, including such paragons of human rights as Iran, which stated: “Libya has achieved significant progress in the promotion and protection of human rights at the national level, especially in such areas human rights legislation.” Syria, another bastion of domestic and international virtue, gushed that Libya’s “unique experience in democracy …has allowed for the growth and development and promotion of human rights in full conformity with its commitment under international law…”
Human rights organizations acquainted with Muammar Gadaffi’s Libya, however, are not hiding their anger about the glossing over of its atrocious human rights record and the farce that just occurred at the UN.
“Libya’s report seeks to cover up its well-documented practices of torture, violations of religion, attacks on migrants and refugees, oppression of journalists and opposition politicians, and the discrimination against women,” said Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, a Geneva-based group that monitors the United Nations.
And when one considers the human rights violations that are occurring almost daily in Libya, the UN’s HRC takes on the appearance of a Soviet court where decisions are made on the basis of a totalitarian ideology and not on evidence with regard to justice. Only last week, Libya’s secret service began to arrest journalists. Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a worldwide press freedom organization, reports that 30 journalists have been imprisoned so far. RWB called the arrests “the reaction of a draconian state, deaf to the need for protecting human rights and freedom.” Somehow, this latest Libyan violence against freedom of the press, a freedom the UN supposedly supports, escaped the HRC’s attention when assessing Libya’s human rights record on Tuesday.
But what the HRC could not avoid were submissions regarding Libya by the human rights organizations World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and Human Rights Solidarity (HRS). The submissions concerned a Libyan citizen arrested in 1989 who was tortured and murdered while in custody. He was one of many Libyan citizens who were arrested and disappeared that year.
“This state disregards its treaty obligations and especially its fundamental obligations to respect the right to life and physical and psychological integrity of its nationals,” stated an OMCT press release, issued last week.
While the HRC called upon Libya to open an impartial investigation into the matter and report back to the HRC within 180 days, the accusations levelled by the two human rights organizations obviously did not affect Libya’s favorable evaluation. The many other cases of Libyan human rights violations, too numerous to list, also had no visible impact on the report’s outcome.
The HRC’s hypocrisy is even more pronounced when one considers some of the world’s worst human rights abusers are among its current 47 members. China, Saudi Arabia and Angola do not conjure up images of states with great respect for human rights but rather of those who care little about personal freedoms within their own borders. Moreover, the HRC spends a lot of time criticising Israel rather than dealing with real human rights abuses occurring elsewhere in the world. According to UN Watch, as of last May the HRC had “adopted 40 censure resolutions, of which 33 have targeted Israel.”
But the HRC’s credibility sank even further when Libya was elected as a council member last May. The reaction in democratic countries was outrage, especially among human rights groups. But besides countries actually voting for Libya, it was pointed out at the time it was equally deplorable that Libya’s election was not opposed by the United States. There is a marked contrast between the Bush administration strongly and openly opposing Libya’s bid for the chairmanship of the UN’s Commission on Human Rights in 2003 and America’s current UN ambassador, Susan Rice, being unable “to condemn Libya’s specific human rights record” last spring, let alone express outrage.
When UN general Secretary Kofi Annan proposed establishing the HRC to replace the old Commission in 2006, the United States voted against it and refused both funding and to run for a seat. The Bush administration foresaw the sham it has become. President Obama ended that boycott and has supported the council while admitting it “remains flawed.”
But with time, these flaws are becoming more outrageous and actually constitute a mockery of human rights and disrespect for the United States. Such a development, in turn, diminishes America’s stature as the world’s true moral beacon, as she fails uphold the rights, upon which the UN was founded, while her own human rights standards are simultaneously being poorly represented.