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The Tragic Farce of the UN Human Rights Council: Irwin Cotler, National Post, Mar. 6, 2014— On Monday (Mar. 3, 2014), the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began its first session since electing 14 new members last fall.
Picking Sides on the ‘World Stage’: Terry Glavin, Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 28, 2014 — Some of the world’s most notorious gangsters, mass murderers and torturers will be having their affairs attended to and their interests minded with the most assiduous attention to decorum and manners here next week with the opening of the annual sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
It Takes a Rogue Nation to Stop a Rogue State: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Mar. 4, 2014 — The international community looked into Putin’s eyes and blinked.
What Would Woodrow Wilson Say?: Conrad Black, National Post, Jan. 4, 2014 — Woodrow Wilson is widely disparaged as an ineffectual dreamer.
What if Dictatorships Judged the World on Human Rights? (Video): UNWATCH, Mar. 2, 2014
At a U.N. Peace Debate, War Breaks Out: Andrew Roberts, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2014
National Post, Mar. 6, 2014
On Monday (Mar. 3, 2014), the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began its first session since electing 14 new members last fall. Among them are Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China and Russia, all regimes that violate the human rights of their own populations as a matter of course. United Nations rules specify that countries shall be elected to the HRC by the General Assembly on the basis of their “contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.” It is therefore shameful that the new members include four of the world’s worst human rights violators, all of which received the support of a majority of UN member states.
However, UN rules also allow for the suspension from the HRC of member states that commit “gross and systemic violations of human rights.” As has been documented by the UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies, human rights experts and NGOs, this criterion is met by all four countries in question. For example, Saudi Arabia imprisons Shiite activists, dissidents and human rights defenders, permits the execution of minors, and continues to refuse visit requests from the UN Special Rapporteurs for torture and freedom of expression, among others. Moreover, the lives of Saudi women are governed by the principle of male guardianship, a form of gender apartheid whereby the permission of a male relative is required to do anything from travel to undergo medical treatment. Of the UN’s 193 member states, 140 supported Saudi Arabia’s candidacy.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Cuban government “represses virtually all forms of political dissent,” with media subject to censorship, harassment and intimidation. In addition to arbitrary arrests and closed, summary trials for dissidents, Raúl Castro’s regime has made increased use of a “dangerousness” provision in the Cuban criminal code to incarcerate individuals pre-emptively. As well, leading pro-democracy activist Oswaldo Payá was killed in a car accident in mysterious circumstances, and the regime has resisted international calls for an inquiry. Of the UN’s 193 member states, 148 supported Cuba’s candidacy.
The government of China severely and violently restricts free expression and civil liberties. Religious and ethnic minorities — such as Uighurs and Tibetans — are persecuted, political dissidents — like Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo — are convicted on trumped-up charges without any semblance of fair trials, and prisoners suffer — inter alia — mistreatment, torture, disappearance and the forced harvesting of their organs for transplants. Of the UN’s 193 member states, all but 27 supported China’s candidacy.
In Russia, the brutal suppression of political dissent and civic activism has intensified in recent years, as has the prosecution and persecution of sexual minorities. As a case study of the unjust nature of the Russian justice system, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky blew the whistle on widespread corruption in 2008; he was imprisoned, tortured, killed and posthumously convicted of the very fraud he had uncovered. Moreover, even before sending troops into Ukraine, Russia supported Bashar al-Assad’s oppressive regime in Syria, and voted against resolutions for human rights in Iran, North Korea and Myanmar. Of the UN’s 193 member states, all but 27 supported Russia’s candidacy.
It is both farcical and tragic that the international community has allowed countries with egregious and ongoing human rights violations to sit on a UN body charged with the protection of those rights. This enabling constitutes an indefensible validation of the violators’ actions in the name of the UN — in breach of its own mandate — and an intolerable betrayal of the victims.
As Chinese human rights activist Yang Jianli has noted, the election of HRC members is an opportunity for free societies to express their disapproval of certain countries’ human rights records without opening themselves up to accusations of interference in the violators’ “internal affairs.” Indeed, HRC elections are held by secret ballot. As such, the election of these four countries is a missed opportunity, as well as a repudiation of the international struggle for human rights, but it is not too late to suspend them and set things right. Not to do so would make a mockery of both the Human Rights Council and the purported commitment to human rights of the many countries — including half of the EU — who cast votes for the human rights reprobates in question.
Beginning this week, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China and Russia will sit in judgement of others, rather than in the docket of the accused. Yet these four regimes stand accused of many serious human rights violations, and only their suspension will restore the credibility of the HRC. It is long past time for countries that espouse the values of democracy, freedom and human dignity to put their ballots where their mouths are.
[Irwin Cotler is the Liberal member of Parliament for Mount Royal, former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada, and professor of law emeritus at McGill University. He is a signatory of a UN Watch petition calling for the suspension of China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council.]
Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 28, 2014
Some of the world’s most notorious gangsters, mass murderers and torturers will be having their affairs attended to and their interests minded with the most assiduous attention to decorum and manners here next week with the opening of the annual sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Envoys from several criminal regimes are set to assemble beneath the council’s amazing, elliptically domed, multicoloured and dramatically textured ceiling, a creation of the Spanish artist Miquel Barceló that is supposed to put one in mind of a wonderful cave beneath the sea. Perhaps it’s intended to keep rude mentions of the stinking dungeons back home to a low murmur. I wouldn’t know.
And maybe things aren’t quite that bad, but the contrast couldn’t have been sharper this week with a gathering in a conference centre across the street from the UN’s Palais des Nations where the UN Human Rights Council meets. Among the delegates to the 6th annual Summit for Human Rights and Democracy were dissidents and activists from North Korea, China, Pakistan, Iran and several other human rights hellholes. The annual summit is the project of about a dozen human rights groups led by UN Watch, a non-governmental organization that tries to keep the heat on the human rights abusers that persist in paralyzing the UN’s capacity as a guarantor of human rights around the world.
This year’s UN Watch summit was kicked off with a rousing speech by the Mount Royal Liberal MP and former justice minister Irwin Cotler, who once served as international counsel to anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela in South Africa and to dissident Natan Sharansky in Russia, and got himself briefly jailed and then expelled from both countries.
Among the more prominent activists at the UN Watch Summit this year: Chen Guangcheng, the blind “barefoot lawyer” who escaped house arrest and found refuge in the United States embassy in Beijing in 2012; Biram Dah Abeid, founder of Mauritania’s anti-slavery movement; Ahn Myong Chul, an activist who defected from North Korea where he had worked as a prison guard in that country’s infamous gulag system; Dhardon Sharling, the youngest elected MP of Tibet’s parliament in exile in Dharamsala, India, and a leader of the Tibetan Women’s Association.
Among the members of the UN Human Rights Council, meanwhile: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba. The UN General Assembly elected these rights-trampling regimes to the 47-member council last November. Such police states and autocracies as Pakistan, Maldives, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and Algeria were already council members in good standing. “The UN Human Rights Council is a complex body,” Montrealer Hillel Neuer, the UN Watch executive director, told summit delegates. “There are times when it does good things, there are times when it does bad things, and there are times when it just does nothing.” Whatever one might make of what the Human Rights Council is doing these days, it would not be unreasonable to wonder whether the council is reverting to the very habits that caused the completely discredited UN Human Rights Commission to be replaced by the council during a thoroughgoing credibility-crisis makeover back in 2006..
“This sounds like a comedy if it were not so tragic,” Neuer told delegates. “When they sit at the council, they block action for victims in their countries. They block action for victims in other countries. And the election of these dictatorships confers an undue legitimacy that only strengthens the regime and undermines the morale of those who are behind bars or who are active for human rights.” What this means is that this year, certainly, Russia will face no UN censure for its ramped-up persecution of gay people, and Beijing will be able to continue the more brutal aspects of its occupation of Tibet and its vicious oppression of democrats. Havana and the Saudis will face no complaint of any consequence while they carry on imprisoning dissenters and strangling free speech.
On the plus side, on March 17 the UN Human Rights Council is set to deal with a decades-overdue UN inquiry into North Korea, released only last month. The 400-page commission report has found the regime to be engaging in “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” among other things.
Meanwhile, Bashar Assad continues to drop barrel bombs and other such primitive cluster munitions on Syrian civilians in Homs and Aleppo and the outskirts of Damascus. Assad’s backers from Tehran and Moscow can walk around Geneva with their chests puffed out, having so easily made the United States the butt of so many “red line” jokes. It’s been six decades since Pyongyang began herding hundreds of thousands of people into its gulags and North Korea is still a slave state owned by a psychopathic wing of the Kim family. It’s been 10 years since everybody noticed there was a genocide underway in Darfur and Sudan’s boss genocidaire Omar al-Bashir is still a free man.
It’s been nearly two years since a settlement with the Montana attorney general required globe-trotting would-be humanitarian Greg Mortenson to repay a charity $1 million from “book royalties, speaking and travel fees, promotional costs and inappropriate personal charges.” And yet what is the book most prominently displayed at the UN’s visitor’s centre here, and also at the UN’s bookstore? It’s the disgraced Mortenson’s bestseller-fairy tale, Three Cups of Tea.
In Canada, it’s all the rage among the disenfranchised mandarins of the old foreign policy establishment to mutter and whinge about how vulgar Ottawa has become lately. It’s true enough that if you were to put it uncharitably you could say Foreign Affairs does seem seized of a kind of hillbilly disinclination to maintain legions of useless diplomats and glorified letter-carriers, hobnobbing and primping and schmoozing and being seen to schmooze all over the damn place. It’s definitely true that here in Geneva, on the “world stage” we’re always being told about, it does seem like there are fewer Canadians lounging around on the sofas at the Palais des Nations these days. You’re surely more likely to bump into Canadians at venues like the Summit for Human Rights and Democracy across the street, and about that, for some strange reason, I just can’t seem to bring myself to feel ashamed.
IT TAKES A ROGUE NATION TO STOP A ROGUE STATE Daniel Greenfield
Frontpage, Mar. 4, 2014
The international community looked into Putin’s eyes and blinked. Multilateralism has failed as badly as it did in the days of the League of Nations, but then again it never actually worked. The international order that everyone pretends is a real force in world affairs is really the United States and a few partners doing all the work and letting the diplomats and bureaucrats of the world pretend that they matter. Without America, the United Nations would be just as useless as the League of Nations. With America, the United Nations is only a deterrent when the United States puts its foot down and the rest of the world doesn’t get in the way.
It has become fashionable to denounce the United States as a rogue state. A military intervention, even with the backing of its Western allies, but outside the framework of the organizations of the international order, was deemed unilateralism and cowboy diplomacy. And then Obama rode in on a three-speed bike and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to doing nothing.
The multilateral system is helpless in the face of aggression. That is as true today as it was eighty years ago. International agreements are worthless without steel and lead behind them. The United Nations is incapable of acting when one of its more powerful members is the aggressor, the foreign policy experts of the left crank out editorials explaining why we can’t do anything and the Secretary of State explains that our weakness is really a strength.
International law couldn’t stop Hitler. It couldn’t stop Japan. It took the United States to do that. The foreign policy experts will deny it, the editorials will decry it and the Common Core textbooks will refuse to print it; but it takes a rogue nation to stop a rogue state. England and France’s diplomatic outreach to Nazi Germany led to the seizure of the Rhineland, the annexations of Austria and a portion of Czechoslovakia, followed by the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland. American diplomacy and sanctions on Japan led to Pearl Harbor.
The issue isn’t whether the United States should intervene in Ukraine, but whether it should have the option to do something more meaningful than draw faint red lines and threaten worthless sanctions. Every mob throwing things at soldiers and police isn’t necessarily composed of the good guys just because they have photogenic protesters and colorful flags. Our instinct to automatically support the underdog is just another dangerous figment of the multilateral mindset.
The United States has unselectively adopted the human rights agenda of the internationalists and allowed our foreign affairs priorities to be curated by the diplomats of the left who know exactly whom to denounce and what not to do about it. UN Ambassador Samantha Power, wearing a bitter frown, agonizing over the woes of the world, is the face of our senseless and useless diplomacy that forces us to play the moral scold without being able to back it up.
American foreign policy has become indistinguishable from the United Nations agenda and just as impotent, fixated on the recommendations of human rights committees instead of national interests, incapable of addressing historical alliances, and unable to build its responses around anything except the same Powerian empty shriek of self-righteous human rights outrage.
Obama’s America has turned a cold impartial face to its allies, aspiring instead to become the vessel of international organizations while assigning its morality to an international committee. American foreign policy is under international management and that transfers its decision process from D.C. to an international network of committees incapable of doing anything except generating worthless reports and denouncing Israel. The United States was the ghost in the machine of the United Nations, but now that the United States is the United Nations, the United States has become the puppet of a puppet.
The weakness of multilateral diplomacy is that it strives to negotiate accommodations to the clashes of the moment without reference to past history or the trajectory of future conquests. This was a weakness that Hitler understood and exploited, reducing the issue to the current status of the Sudetenland or the Rhineland, rather than to past and future war aims. It was only when the Allies broke out of the diplomatic mindset of considering every Hitlerian conquest individually and debating the merits of defending Czechoslovakia, rather than anticipating the conquest of Poland, that real resistance to the Nazi war machine finally began. [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]
National Post, Jan. 4, 2014
Woodrow Wilson is widely disparaged as an ineffectual dreamer. But as A. Scott Berg’s newly published biography of the 28th President of the United States…makes clear, Wilson was in fact an exceptional leader. He founded the Federal Reserve, enacted the Clayton Antitrust Act, reduced tariffs, and tried admirably to veto the lunacy of Prohibition. He is rivaled only by Thomas Jefferson, and perhaps John Quincy Adams, as the greatest intellect ever to occupy the White House. He composed his own speeches and delivered them ex tempore — often with overpowering eloquence…
When the insane decision of the German emperor and general staff to unleash submarine attacks on neutral American-flag merchant shipping in 1917 forced Wilson to enter World War I, the British Empire already had suffered about 750,000 dead. France, a country of a little more than 40 million, had endured about 1.5 million dead, two million injured, and the destruction of much of its industrial heartland. Italy, which entered the war in 1915 on the Allied side, had suffered about 750,000 dead. Wilson uplifted the Allied nations, and even many people in ostensibly enemy countries, by declaring that the entry of the United States into the “most terrible of all wars” was “to make the world safe for democracy”; it was a “war to end war.” Conceptually and tactically, it was genius, and Woodrow Wilson, though a pacifist whose youth was spent in Virginia as that state was shattered by the armies of Grant and Lee, proved to be one of America’s greatest war leaders, not outshone by Washington, Lincoln or FDR. (Unfortunately, his Virginia background also lumbered him with a discreditable toleration of racial segregation.)
As everyone knows, he mismanaged the ratification process of the Treaty of Versailles, largely because he suffered a series of incapacitating strokes, and was repudiated by partisans in his own Congress. The League of Nations, which Wilson conceived, was launched without the United States, and it was later sabotaged by Hitler, Mussolini, the Japanese Imperialists and Stalin, with the effective complicity of the Anglo-French appeasers. It devolved upon a junior member of Wilson’s administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he was president during the world war that Wilson sought to avoid, to revive the idea of a world organization, involve the opposing domestic political party fully in its creation, and have it in place even before that war ended in 1945.
FDR took the best of Wilson and of his chief rival, distant cousin (and uncle-in-law) Theodore Roosevelt, and united the latter’s “big stick” with the former’s “new freedom.” FDR was determined that the UN would not be reduced to a mere talking shop. He intended that it would serve to disguise in collegiality the fact that the United States, with half the world’s economic product and a monopoly on atomic weapons, effectively ruled the world, and would reassure his fractious and long-isolationist countrymen that the world was now a much safer place than it had been. In fact, Roosevelt realized that if the United States were not engaged in Europe and the Far East, there would be a constant risk every generation, that the forces of totalitarianism could take over the entire Eurasian land-mass and leave the Americas, as he put it in two famous speeches in 1940, “as prisoners … living at the point of a gun, and … fed through the bars of our cage by the unpitying masters of other continents.”
Roosevelt calculated that in the opening decades, a majority of UN members would be either Latin American countries that would take their lead from the United States; Commonwealth allies of the British and Americans; or countries otherwise dependent on U.S. assistance, such as Nationalist China, pre-Gaullist France, and Italy. His calculations were correct for about 25 years, and the Soviet absence from the United Nations on a boycott enabled the world organization to agree on an American-led international response to North Korean aggression in 1950. The immense economic powerhouse of today’s democratic South Korea is the result of this intervention (and the pestilential hermit state of North Korea the very visible alternative). Roosevelt’s strategic team, led by his successors, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, General Marshall, Dean Acheson, George Kennan, and others, implemented the Containment policy against the Soviet Union, which, of course, led to the disintegration of the USSR and the collapse of international communism in 45 years, without another major war…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]
What if Dictatorships Judged the World on Human Rights? (Video): UNWATCH, Mar. 2, 2014
At a U.N. Peace Debate, War Breaks Out: Andrew Roberts, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2014—As a young man 30 years ago, I used to fear that the United Nations might in my lifetime pose a threat to the nation-state.
Oxfam’s Middle East Blinders: National Post, Feb. 14, 2014 —Global humanitarian aid and human rights groups, such as Oxfam, which have massive budgets and large staffs, wield a great deal of power.
Even When the UN Gets it Right: New York Post, Feb. 18, 2014 —It’s not news when we’re told North Korea is guilty of crimes against humanity on a scale without parallel in today’s world.
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