Ending the ‘Theater of the Absurd’ at the UNHRC

Ending the ‘Theater of the Absurd’ at the UNHRC
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It is possible that there is no more misplaced and absurdly titled international body than the United Nations Human Rights Council. Though the name sounds noble, its work is anything but, so it is entirely correct that the United States no longer plays along with this macabre charade and has officially withdrawn from the organization.

Like all United Nations bodies, the UNHRC is a sum of its parts and, on closer inspection of the countries that make up the council such as Afghanistan, Qatar, Cuba and China, it is clear that the “inmates are running the asylum.”  

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Only a minority of the 47 nations on the UNHRC are considered “free” by the independent NGO Freedom House. The majority of nations currently represented on this self-styled “human rights” body do not allow basic freedoms for their own people, let alone concern themselves with global civil liberties.

 

In fact, many repressive countries seek a seat on the council not to advance the vision of Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but to serve as a barrier against the possibility of investigation and condemnation. It’s a strategy that has worked well for many countries where there is no democracy, freedom of religion, protections for minorities, or women’s rights.

During more than 50 UNHRC sessions, only 14 of 193 countries have been condemned, leaving the serial human rights-abusing nations completely unscathed.

One could argue that the only matter of concern to many of these repressive dictatorships is to single out one country: the State of Israel. There have been far more resolutions adopted against Israel than against all the other 192 nations on earth combined.

In addition, the UNHRC’s Article 7 singles out the “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied territories,” the only region-specific issue on the council’s agenda every month.

All of this means that the United States has no business being on a body that uniquely condemns one of its strongest allies and serves to bolster and defend autocracies, dictatorships, monocracies and regimes that massacre and repress their own people and others.

There is no justification for the presence of the United States on the UNHRC, and our leaving it sends a clear message to allies and foes alike that the situation of repressive regimes using the United Nations to shield their abuses and distract and deflect attention toward the one Jewish state stands against the lofty vision of human rights, equality and equity.

It also will hopefully shame the few other free democracies that carry on the charade that takes place on the banks of Lake Geneva. Perhaps it can even lead to some meaningful reform.

In 2003, when the UNHRC’s predecessor, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, elected the murderous regime of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi as chair, for many this was the final straw.

This prompted then-U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan to call for scrapping the commission, which he said was plagued with “politicization,” “selectivity” and a “credibility deficit,” all of which “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.”

Some might argue, quite rightly, that the UNHRC is actually worse than its predecessor. However, there is no moral voice from above to call for its disbanding. Thus, it is left to the United States to force its hand.

By withdrawing from the UNHRC, the United States has dented the U.N. body’s credibility. Moreover, the reduction in funding which the U.S. announced, across the United Nations sphere, will force the multilateral organization to take a look at itself and see where it is going wrong. The United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations, paying 22 percent of the organization's annual budget.

The United Nations is fast descending into a completely politicized body that attacks democracies and provides a space for rogue regimes to run the multilateral sphere. This hurts not only the United States and its interests, but certainly acts against the mandate the United Nations created for itself.

The United States has taken the moral high ground by leaving the UNHRC. This is part of this Trump administration’s message of standing firm against opponents and not turning a blind eye to allies that hurt America and its interests.

This action should put the international community on notice that normal service will not be resumed in the “Theater of the Absurd.”

Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum, a nonprofit organization that promotes American interests and Western values in the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter @MEForum.