First Time: Israel Admitted to UN Human Rights Caucus in Geneva
January 27, 2010
GENEVA – After decades of exclusion, Israel was granted membership in a United Nations caucus in Geneva, the world body's European headquarters.
Israel's admission to the Human Rights Council’s JUSCANZ consultation group -- an acronym (pronounced "juicecans") for the non-EU democracies of Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- was approved last Friday by consensus, and signifies they regard the Jewish state as “like-minded.” The group has expanded over time to include Norway, Switzerland and other Western countries.
For this to happen in Geneva, and especially at the Arab-dominated Human Rights Council, is an historic accomplishment for Israel and for the principle of equality.
It’s a significant achievement in an arena where regression is the norm, one that will allow Israel for the first time to participate in a UN consultative group on human rights issues.
This is particularly important during a time when countries are planning for the 2011 reform of the council, a body that has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the world’s victims of human rights violations.
The diplomatic victory followed years of diplomatic efforts, which were supported by UN Watch as a necessary implementation of the UN Charter’s equality guarantee for all nations, large and small. The United States is one of several countries that deserve particular credit for finally making it happen.
The change does not apply to JUSCANZ consultations in New York, nor to the Asian regional group's continued exclusion of Israel. UN Watch appealed to the United Nations to remove remaining discriminatory barriers to Israel’s full and equal participation in UN voting and consultation blocs.
In particular, UN Watch calls on the Human Rights Council to remove its permanent agenda item targeting Israel; to eliminate its post of a permanent investigator on alleged Israeli violations (currently held by 9/11 conspiracy theorist Richard Falk), where guilt is presumed in advance; and to end the policy whereby three-quarters of all council resolutions have been devoted to the one-sided censure of Israel, and Israel made the object of more special sessions than the total amount for the rest of the world combined. For a chart of all special sessions, see at bottom.
U.N. rights council's Haiti parley is harmful diversion
January 27, 2010
GENEVA -- Today's 13th emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, on Haiti, was a harmful waste of the organization’s precious time, resources, and moral capital.
Haiti is certainly a dire emergency, but the council, which is supposed to address human rights violations, has no budget, authority or expertise on humanitarian aid, and is simply the wrong forum.
According to one UN estimate, a day of conference and translation services can cost up to $200,000. Instead of being used for today's questionable exercise, that money should have gone to Haiti's needy victims.
Unlike other UN bodies, the Human Rights Council has neither the power of the purse nor of the sword, only the power to turn a spotlight on the worst abusers.
Tragically, however, the council has refused to hold special sessions to try and stop Iran from massacring student protesters, terrorists from killing civilians in Baghdad and Kabul, or China and Cuba from arresting bloggers, journalists and dissidents. Yet today it convened -- to do what, exactly? Condemn the earth for quaking? It's nonsensical.
Brazil, whose military has commanded the UN forces in Haiti for the past several years, was the one who requested today's session. The leading power in South America, Brazil is determined to preserve its regional influence, with its rule over Haiti becoming a way to flex its muscles, as well as to gain UN credibility and one day win a seat on the Security Council.
The sudden, post-earthquake arrival of US forces and other actors challenges Brazil's position. Hence today's meeting, with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim given an outsized role at the session. (Click here for summary of speeches.)
Also today, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva blamed wealthy nations for Haiti's poverty and misery, saying he hoped the quake would shame world leaders into doing what they should have done decades ago.
Beyond Brazil's use of the special session to jockey for international influence, the larger question is why the session won such wide and easy support, when requests for urgent meetings on massive abuses elsewhere are routinely ignored by the council members.
Dominated by repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, Russia and China, the council majority prefers to waste time on an issue that involves no violation or perpetrator. It's a public relations exercise that diverts attention from examining genuine human rights abuses, and aids member states that want the world to believe the council is nevertheless doing something.
The council was similarly misused last year with an urgent meeting on the financial crisis, and the year before that on the rise in food prices. Because it’s inherently the wrong forum, both meetings amounted to futile political exercises that produced nothing but paper.
The United States and the European Union should not have lent their names as co-sponsors to this equally futile exercise. It only takes the council further away from its stated mission of protecting individual human rights, and sends the wrong message.
Interestingly, the EU and other Western countries had previously demanded that all special sessions include a specific description of the human rights violations at issue (see par. 64 at p. 17 here). However, many of the same countries who took that position co-sponsored today's session, despite the absence of any such description or violations.
The UN titled the meeting a "Special Session on Support to Recovery Process in Haiti: A Human Rights approach."
For more information on previous special sessions, see below.
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Background: Chart of All Previous UN Human Rights Council Special Sessions
From its inception in June 2006, the UN Human Rights Council has held 10 special sessions on countries, of which six were sponsored by Arab states and devoted to the one-sided condemnation of Israel, and four on the rest of the world combined. An additional two sessions were held on food and financial crises, both of which pointed an accusing finger at the West. Following is a summary.
- 12th special session (October 2009): Condemned Israel for alleged violations (but failed to condemn Hamas), and adopted report of UN Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict ("Goldstone Report").
- 11th special session (May 2009): Praised Sri Lankan government (ignored killing of 20,000 civilians).
- 10th special session (February 2009): Financial crisis (blamed the West).
- 9th special session (January 2009): Condemned Israel for Gaza war (ignored Hamas terrorism).
- 8th special session (November 2008) DR Congo (failed to reinstate investigator eliminated by council earlier in the year).
- 7th special session (May 2008) Food crisis (blamed the West).
- 6th special session (January 2008): Condemned Israel for actions in Gaza (ignored Hamas terrorism).
- 5th special session (October 2007): Myanmar.
- 4th special session (December 2006) Darfur (praised Sudan for its “cooperation”).
- 3rd special session (November 2006): Condemned Israel for errant shell in Beit Hanoun (ignored Hamas terrorism).
- 2nd special session (August 2006): Condemned Israel for Lebanon war (ignored Hezbollah terrorism).
- 1st special session (July 2006): Condemned Israel for responding to Gilad Shalit capture (ignored Hamas terrorism).