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UN Secretary-General (R) and Prime Minister Netanyahu Photo: Reuters
UN Secretary-General (R) and Prime Minister Netanyahu Photo: Reuters
 
Iranian President Ahmadinejad, leader of 'tyranny' Photo: Reuters
Iranian President Ahmadinejad, leader of 'tyranny' Photo: Reuters
 
 

Dream became a nightmare

Op-ed: UN’s human rights body composed of world’s worst human right violators

Omer Gertel
Published: 09.27.10, 00:58 / Israel Opinion

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst human rights violators. It is not an electoral democracy and political opposition is forbidden. Freedom of speech is heavily restricted. The government maintains control of the media and responds harshly to criticism or deviation from its strict Islamic dogma.

 

Moreover, freedom of religion is nonexistent: All Saudis are required by law to be Muslim, while public practice of other religions is prohibited. Religious practices of Shiite and Sufi Muslims are also restricted. Arbitrary arrests and torture are not uncommon.

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Discrimination against women is appalling: They may not drive cars, travel within or outside of the country without a male relative, or use public facilities freely in the presence of men. Employment rates of women are extremely low and their ability to take part in political life is minimal. The testimony of one man is equal to that of two women at the country's Sharia courts.

 

One might expect a body that calls itself "Human Rights Council" to devote a significant portion of its activity to criticism and condemnation of Saudi Arabia. But this is not the case. Not only has Saudi Arabia never been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council - it is a dignified member of this very body.

 

How can a country with virtually not connection to human rights be a member of a formal body dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights around the world? Is that not similar to putting a wife-beater in charge of a women's shelter? Welcome to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the most hypocritical and shameful body of an institution that knows a thing or two about hypocrisy and shame; a body that makes the UN more meaningless than ever.

 

Regrettably, Saudi Arabia is not an exception. The UNHRC is dominated by third world countries, in most of which democracy and human rights are nothing more than theoretical concepts. More than half of the Council's members are not free democracies; on top of Saudi Arabia, it includes some of the world’s most oppressive dictatorships, such as Libya, Qatar and China.

 

Naturally, a body with such composition does very little to promote or protect human rights, as this would damage its members' aspirations. What does it do then? Precisely what can be expected of a body with a significant proportion of Arab and Muslim countries – demonize Israel.

 

The Sri Lanka case

Incredibly, about 80% (!) of the Council's censures were devoted to Israel. This is an unbelievable figure: Meanwhile, tyrannies such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, China and others were never condemned by the UNHRC. North Korea, one of the darkest regimes of the 21st century, was condemned once. Sudan, where genocide has been committed for years, was addressed in two UNHRC resolutions, none of which held the Sudanese government accountable (one actually praised it for its "progress" on human rights.)

 

On the other hand, Israel, a democracy that grants freedom, civil rights and human rights to all of its citizens, including minorities that belong to a people with whom Israel is involved in bitter conflict – is supposedly the worst human rights violator on earth, and in fact one of the only human rights violators altogether. This according to the UN sponsored wife-beater's best judgment.

 

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, recounts a story that demonstrates the typical hypocrisy of the UNHRC regarding Israel: During the first half of 2009, two countries, Israel and Sri Lanka, fought terrorist groups that target civilians and use them as human shields – Israel faced Hamas in Operation Cast Lead while Sri Lanka struggled with the Tamil Tigers. There were several differences between these similar cases: While Israel undertook extensive measures to prevent the harming of civilians, described by British Colonel Richard Kemp as unique in military history, Sri Lanka did no such thing. While Israel made humanitarian pauses every day, Sri Lanka failed to do so.

 

The civilian death toll in Gaza was approximately 1,000 according to Palestinian sources (and much lower according to Israeli sources), while the number of civilian casualties in Sri Lanka was no less than 6,500, and as high as 20,000 according to some estimates.

 

We all know what became of Israel in the UN Human Rights Council. A fact-finding mission, quickly established with the stated goal of investigating Israel's "war crimes" and "violations," confirmed all predetermined conclusions depicting Israel as the devil. Israel was severely condemned, as always.

 

But what of Sri Lanka? Did the UNHRC completely ignore the killing of thousands of civilians? Not at all. It shamelessly adopted a resolution written by Sri Lanka itself, praising Sri Lanka for promoting and protecting human rights. True story.

 

Help the world wake up

What is the conclusion of all this? First of all, reports by the UNHRC, like the Goldstone report or the Flotilla report, are entirely political and lack credibility or any factual, juridical or moral value. In fact, considering the council's well known politics, an intelligent person would need no evidence or knowledge whatsoever in order to perfectly predict the conclusions and verdict of a Council's report. The investigation's subject would be sufficient.

 

But this is hardly a secret in Israel. Israel refused to cooperate with the UNHRC "fact-finding" mission regarding the Gaza flotilla, and the formal Israeli response to its report concluded that it was "as biased and as one-sided as the body that has produced it." That is correct, but not enough.

 

While some of us might be familiar with the absurdity of the UNHRC's composition and resolutions, many view any UN body as neutral, making its resolutions and reports fair and meaningful. Hence, Israel should do everything in its power to delegitimize the UNHRC and expose it for what is truly is.

 

Official responses, which are usually published in the media worldwide, should be used for this purpose. Any Israeli response should not only justifiably accuse the UNHRC of political bias, but also refer to the tyrannies and human rights violators composing it, and mention the fact that the Council systematically and deliberately ignores human rights violations by the most repressive dictatorships, using Israel to divert focus from them.

 

It should be known everywhere, for the sake of Israel as well as of human rights, that the Human Rights Council is a sham.

 

Speaking at the UNHRC, Hillel Neuer described how “Eleanor Roosevelt's dream", which created the commission on human rights following World War II, turned into a nightmare. Israel must do everything it can in order to help the world wake up.

 

 

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