Monday, May 17, 2010

The U..N Investigating U.S. Human Rights: Unbelievable But True

First there was the Obama foreign apology tour. Now the Obama Administration thinks the U.N. should judge our nation's human rights here in the United States.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently announced that the U.N. Human Rights Council would scrutinize the United States in its “Universal Periodic Review.” The Universal Periodic Review is an every four-year review of the human rights record of the U.N.’s 192 members. It is a mechanism to pressure countries publicly to stop their human rights abuses.

The Council’s purpose is to speak out against human rights atrocities. But as you might expect with the U.N., the Council is composed of states known for human rights abuses. These countries include Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, Russia, Egypt, and Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, on May 13th, Libya and several other countries known for violating human rights were voted onto the 47- member state Human Rights Council. Through the universal periodic review, these nations will be empowered to criticize the U.S. and justify their own human rights violations.

U.S. silence is deafening in regard to the irony of Libya’s election. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, has refused to reveal whether the U.S. voted yeah or nay on Libya’s candidacy for a seat on the Human Rights Council. Libya ran for one of the four regional African seats on the Council. There was no other candidate in the region running for that seat. Although some 30 human rights organizations wrote the Ambassador opposing Libya’s candidacy, she did not search for a competing candidate.

The history of the Human Rights Council highlights the hypocrisy of the Council reviewing the U.S. human rights record. The Council was created in 2006 as a replacement for the now defunct U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). The UNCHR closed largely because member states were known for gross human rights violations. In particular, the Bush Administration effectively spoke out against Libya’s election to the chairmanship of the UNCHR. Libya’s recent election to the Human Rights Council may lead to the Council’s downfall.

Under the Bush Administration, the U.S. did not fund and refused to be a member of the Human Rights Council. The Obama Administration made joining the Council a foreign policy priority. Ambassador Rice stated that the U.S. hopes to influence the Council from within, rather than opposing the Council from “the sidelines.” Changing the Council from within is a tall order.

The universal periodic review may publicly pressure nations to respect human rights. However, granting nations known to abuse their citizens the right to scrutinize our human rights record is a travesty. The review gives China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Libya, a platform to criticize the U.S. It also is a means for them to justify their own actions. The Obama Administration needs to revamp its foreign policy strategy.


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