Last year, I may have said “Man, that’s crazy, that’s like putting Saudi Arabia on the UN Human Rights Council!” as an euphemism for something completely insane or hypocritical.
With Saudi Arabia being put on the council five days ago, does that mean my definition of crazy must now change? Or is the World itself crazy? No, this is no joke. Saudi Arabia is now an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. And the world has gone crazy.
But let’s try again- “Man! That’s crazy! That’s like putting China on the UN Human Rights Council!”
Same story. You could also replace “China” with Cuba, Vietnam or Russia and it would seem just as mad, but all of these countries have recently become members of the 47 member “springboard of action for those who suffer human rights abuses”. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
To quote Wikipedia, the purpose of the UNHRC is to address “important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, Women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.” Sweden and Norway and other Scandinavian liberal paradises spring to mind when you hear of those values. That said, I don’t associate Saudi Arabia with freedom of religion or women’s rights. It doesn’t sound right, does it? In the same vein, I do not associate China with freedom of expression, or Russia with LGBT rights. And yet, for the next three years, these countries will help shape the world’s human rights directives.
Yet this is not the irony here. The irony is that these countries have not been condemned by this council. Even if China holds the current record for internet censorship and the number of times that it has said “no” to the Council’s own monitors. Even if Saudi Arabia engages in public beheadings for attempted sorcery, as well as crucifixion, and stonings; amputations of ears, noses, feet or hands for crimes such as “sexual deviancy” or “drunkenness”. These countries have never been condemned for these things by this council. Russia has not been condemned for it’s censorship. So perhaps it shouldn’t shock the world that these countries that are the very definition of “authoritarian” are on the “most important human rights panel in the world”.
What would shock the world, perhaps, is Israel ever being chosen for membership of the UNHRC. It is number one in the Middle East for every category of freedom (not that this says much) and tolerates annual gay pride parades in Tel Aviv. It has full freedom of religion for it’s Christian, Muslim and Druze minorities. It has freedom of press, internet, expression, protest. It has democracy – minority Arabs sit as members of the Knesset. Yet the State of Israel has more condemnations than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, even North Korea combined- because these countries have never been condemned by this “Human Rights Council”. Israel has- over 30 times.
On the 10th of November, it was the 38th Anniversary of the passing of UN General Assembly Resolution “Zionism is Racism”. I remember this day not because of the significance of the resolution passed, but because of the speech given by Israeli President Chaim Herzog to the representitives assembled in front of him. The last paragraphs are a relevant closing quote for this article:
“I stand here not as a supplicant. Vote as your moral conscience dictates to you. For the issue is neither Israel nor Zionism. The issue is the continued existence of this organization, which has been dragged to its lowest point of discredit by a coalition of despots and racists…
We put our trust in our Providence, in our faith and beliefs, in our time-hallowed tradition, in our striving for social advance and human values, and in our people wherever they may be. For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value.”
This ascension of dictatorships, authoritarian nations, the very worst of human rights abusers into a farcically named “Human Rights Council” is indeed devoid of any moral or legal value, and should be perceived as such by all of us.