[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjX5SjoE8Zk’]When we last left our friends at the United Nations, they were deputizing war criminal Robert Mugabe as an envoy for tourism after trying to hand Mt. Rushmore back to the Native Americans and ban Dante from schools, among other exploits. Although we at Via Meadia have since been preoccupied by other pressing matters, the UN has continued marching resolutely onward into self-parody.The place: the Human Rights Council. The occasion: Venezuela’s candidacy for this council. Astute readers may have already spotted a slight problem–Venezuela is not exactly a paragon of human rights, and probably isn’t the best choice to oversee those crucial freedoms around the globe. And so, this past Saturday, the Human Rights Foundation NGO sent a representative to question the wisdom of this move, citing some basic historical facts:
In Venezuela, exercising free speech is fraught with risks. Political dissent is criminalized. Property is capriciously and unlawfully seized. Opposition politicians are disqualified from elections thanks to false accusations. Journalists are harassed and media critical of the government is simply shut down. Judges are fired and even sent to prison when the president dislikes their rulings. More than 150,000 people have been killed in Venezuela since Lieutenant Colonel Chávez was elected president in 1999…While all of this has taken place this council has remained silent.Madam President, despite all of this, Venezuela is now seeking election to this council. When it was founded in 2006 the council promised that only those countries that “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” would be the only ones elected. To elect Venezuela would shame and embarrass this council and would allow Venezuela to shield its horrendous record of abuse and equally problematically, to validate other authoritarian governments.
The response to this ringing call for moral accountability? As you can see in the video above, council members Cuba, China and Russia attempt to shut down the discussion, delegitimize the NGO and strike its testimony from the record. (The United States valiantly protests.)As incidents like these attest and as State Department officials like Rhodes Scholar Ronan Farrow have detailed, the UN Human Rights Council is a sad, pathetic joke and an insult to the values it purports to uphold. It coddles dictators, debases democracies and makes a mockery of what should be the UN’s great moral calling. Witness the impending ascent of Syria–yes, Syria–to the council. As Farrow argues, the UNHRC needs to be disbanded and rebuilt from the ground up:
U.N. member states should be prepared to call for a fresh start. A new body should be built, with the safeguards initially proposed for this one — such as the required approval of two-thirds of the U.N. to attain membership — left intact. A forum that serves as a real tool in service of human rights is worth fighting for.
Farrow issued this call in 2008. Via Meadia hopes it may be heeded someday, but we aren’t exactly holding our breath.