The United Nations is once again sticking its nose into the domestic affairs of the United States in violation of its own charter (Article 2, para. 7). The Washington Post has uncovered a transmittal letter dated February 2, 2017 from the UN Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights, forwarding to the then acting U.S. Secretary of State, Thomas Shannon, Jr., a complaint from one of the UN’s Special Rapporteurs about plans to repeal and replace Obamacare. This Special Rapporteur “on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” Dainius Puras, believes it is within his mandate to intervene in the internal debate going on within the U.S. Congress and the executive branch as to what to do about Obamacare.
In his letter, Puras expressed his “serious concern” over how proposed legislative changes to Medicaid, tax subsidies, and the Obamacare individual and employer mandates could deprive the American people of the rights contained in his long title. And then he waved the banner of international law. He cited broad clauses on health care in a number of treaties to which the U.S. is a party and the opinions of unaccountable members of the “UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” interpreting the treaty clauses. The Committee noted, he said, that “there is a strong presumption that retrogressive measures taken in relation to the right to health are not permissible and if any deliberately retrogressive measures are taken, the State party has the burden of providing that they have been introduced after the most care consideration of all alternatives…”
Finally, as some sort of grand inquisitor, Puras set forth a number of requests for information, including “details on the health policy, programmatic and financial measures that will be put in place to substitute the Affordable Care Act” if repealed, and steps “to ensure the realization of everyone’s right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health in a non-discriminatory, accessible and affordable manner.”
If investigations prove that revisions to Obamacare violate international law, as he and the UN Committee define it, Puras said there needs to be measures in place “to guarantee the accountability of any person responsible of (sic) the alleged violations.”
How about asking first for accountability of the persons in UN Peacekeeping responsible for the spread of cholera in Haiti, resulting in thousands of deaths, before lecturing the United States about what to do with its health care system?
The U.S. Constitution vests no authority whatsoever in a UN Special Rapporteur with a mouthful of a title. Nor does it vest any legitimacy on the pronouncements of unaccountable UN committee members putting their own gloss on vaguely worded treaty language that they say the member states must follow in order to be in compliance with their notion of “international law.“ These dunderheads apparently think they can tell Congress what laws it should and should not pass in order to meet their progressive standard for defining ”universal” human rights — completely interfering with the cardinal principle of national sovereignty and the United States’ constitutional processes of self-government.
Perhaps sensing the sensitivity of the UN being perceived as interfering with U.S. domestic matters, the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary General tried to distance the UN organization from the Special Rapporteur’s letter. He described the Special Rapporteur as an independent person expressing his own views, not necessarily those of the UN itself. The problem with this answer is two-fold. First, the Special Rapporteur receives his mandate from an official body of the UN, the Human Rights Council, and submits his report to that body, which he intends to do in this case. Second, the Special Rapporteur’s letter went out under a cover letter from the chief of the Special Procedures branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the subject line in all caps: “URGENT APPEAL FROM SPECIAL PROCEDURES.” The chief made a special point of asking the U.S. Deputy Permanent representative in the Geneva office to send the Special Rapporteur’s letter directly to the acting Secretary of State “at your earliest convenience.” Clearly, the UN was placing its institutional imprimatur on the letter.
This whole exercise provides yet another reason for the Trump administration to pull out of the dysfunctional, misnamed Human Rights Council and to withdraw funding.
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