Where is the media on this? Tendentiously absent.
For all the liberal-left’s blather about human rights and their claim of evolving (or is it “progressing”?) to becoming the only beings enlightened enough or genetically capable of watching out for “human rights”, and their sessile implication that the Right is capable of only the opposite, it is more and more apparent that it is just that: blather. The week’s happenings at the United Nations leads to further proof that both the UN and the liberal-left in Canada are without principle and that they are in fact a farce, and increasingly so.
The liberals’ media for its part won’t let a word from the liberal-left go unpublished or untelevised when it comes to liberal-left politicians fighting the Harper Conservatives over the treatment of terrorist captives, even though this negative “torture of detainees” spin is a non-story, and moreover a lie. But then the media adds to the perfidy by failing to even acknowledge the yeoman’s work that Canada, under Harper Conservative government guidance, has been doing of late and particularly this past week at the liberals’ very own United Nations, as the only country actively standing up to the UN’s insidious anti-Israel stance.
As we’re finding out, again, the UN is apparently where “defending human rights” is, as in the case of Canada’s liberal-left, but a specious ploy. Perhaps the liberal-left and its United Nations should officially join each other in some sort of funky post-modern political matrimony.
Thanks to PTBC reader Manny M for the articles, which should have been brought to our attention by our news media, but weren’t, and we’re left wondering why that is.
June 21 2007
If it were not so sad, it would be laughable. With great fanfare, the supposedly reformed UN Human Rights Council just finished its first year of operation, a year in which its structure and agenda was to be determined. The new council replaced its predecessor, the discredited UN Human Rights Commission, infamous for being chaired by such lights as Libya, and for singling out Israel for abuse.
So how does the new council conclude this pivotal year? By removing two known human rights abusers, Cuba and Belarus, from its roster of “special mandates,” and by enshrining Israel as the only country in the world to receive permanent scrutiny. The council had inherited nine such “special mandates,” regarding countries like North Korea, Cambodia, and Sudan – and of course, Israel.
Cuba hailed the decision. Indeed, it was quite a feat to obtain such a stamp of approval from the UN’s premier human rights body, given that this month, UN rights envoy Christine Chanet expressed “deep concern” over the health of some 60 Cuban dissidents jailed in a crackdown four years ago, adding that their plight represents the tip of the iceberg of human rights violations in Cuba.
Castro and other tyrants can rest easy now that the UN is back to what it knows best, going after Israel. Not only is the council’s mandate regarding Israel the only one that is not subject to periodic review, but it is unique in other ways.
The other mandates all concern the “situation” in each place, leaving the council free to consider and criticize both sides of a conflict. In Israel’s case, the council mandated itself only to consider Israeli actions, and not those of Palestinians, thereby rendering the whole exercise biased by definition. Further, only Israel is convicted in advance, since the mandate concerns Israeli “violations,” rather than entertaining the possibility that Israel is acting according to its legitimate rights and responsibilities.
Alejandro Wolff, deputy US permanent representative at the United Nations, summed up the situation by accusing the council of “a pathological obsession with Israel.” “I think the record is starting to speak for itself,” he told journalists.
This is certainly true, but the question remains who is to blame for this mess and what can be done about it. The answer lies in two small flashes of moral courage that should be recognized and built upon.
The first is the laudable pluck of Canada, the single nation that fought to the end against the outrageous “consensus” that was reached. First Canada opposed the package deal that included the singling out of Israel and the rewarding of Cuba and Belarus. The council chair ignored this, moving the item forward as if consensus had been reached.
Next, Canada, unbowed, called a point of order against the chairman’s action, forcing a vote. Finally, the council voted 46 to 1 (Canada), in effect retroactively and falsely deciding that consensus had been reached and blatantly violating, as Canada’s ambassador put it, “more than 60 years of established practice of the UN, which is based on the fundamental principle of equality of all of its member states.”
We can only hope that all who care about human rights and the integrity of the international system, for that matter, come to Canada’s defense. To their shame, democracies such as Germany, the UK, France, the Czech Republic, Poland and Japan were among the 46 nations who did not.
Some of them, such as Germany and the UK, explained themselves by criticizing the singling out of Israel, while claiming amorphous “achievements” that are, like the promise of the council itself, unlikely to pan out. Indeed, the skewering of Israel was done in violation of express commitments made in similar package deals that led to the council’s formation.
The other ray of light was the criticism of the council’s action by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who accused the council of “picking on Israel.” A statement said further that he was “disappointed at the council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”
Once again, a band of dictators has hijacked the UN body that is supposed to stand up for the defenseless the world over. They are using Israel as their flak jacket, and in the process making a mockery of the concept of human rights and the institutions that free nations created and supposedly hold dear.
For what possible principle or gain do free nations allow their values to be so brazenly trampled? Why didn’t these nations, as was threatened along the way, simply walk out? Why, when Canada had the temerity to object, did they, in former UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s timeless phrase, “join the jackals?”
This article at the web site UN Watch.com also has a good take on it:
Geneva has many secrets, and now there is one more. Diplomats, activists and journalists close to the UN Human Rights Council have been covering up the fact that president Luis Alfonso de Alba missed the legal deadline for concluding the mandated one year of negotiations on his proposed reform package.
The deadline was June 18 at midnight, and he missed it. Missed, to be sure, by only a couple of minutes at most, but unmistakably missed. So why are so many writing that the president had just made the deadline, when in fact he had just missed it? The issue may seem relatively small compared to the scandal of the adoption that never was (of that we shall write soon), but it reveals a troubling mindset among those who swear fealty to institutions of the rule of law.
Midnight was the legal deadline on several fronts. First, it was the deadline established under last year’s General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which gave the new council one year to finalize procedures for the new universal periodic review mechanism and to complete its review of the independent experts. Second, midnight was the deadline for De Alba’s one-year term as president. Third, the group of 47 countries that had negotiated the package automatically ended its term at midnight, rotating to a new group that included eight different countries.
Delegates on Monday, June 18, waited all day in the lounge and corridors for the closed-door negotiations to conclude. Late at night they were summoned to the plenary. Yet as the deadline approached, there was still no sign of the president. We watched the clock. The deadline was missed. Moments later—precisely 20 seconds past the deadline according to the Internet atomic clock visible on one delegate’s laptop—the president ascended the podium to make his announcement. He said that “there is an agreement on a final text” and proposed that “you accept this text as compromise and that tomorrow the council can take action” and formally adopt it. He received thunderous applause, a standing ovation, and emotional embraces from High Commissioner Louise Arbour. Everyone went home. (In the morning, however, it emerged that that the president had apparently ignored Canada’s refusal to grant consent.)
Turning Back the Clock
Curiously, many reported that the president had just made the deadline. Or they obscured the issue. In doing so, some were likely deliberate.
Geneva’s Le Temps, possibly relying on a Swissinfo wire story, turned back the clock to have De Alba at the podium at “minuit moins une”—one minute before midnight. Le Temps for the past year has acted as the unofficial spinmeister for the council and its failures, so that was hardly surprising. Yet even our diligent NGO colleagues at Human Rights Watch reported the package as having been agreed without a vote “just minutes before a midnight deadline,” thus turning the clock back even further.
Others might just have been sloppy. Reuters reported the package as having been agreed “on Monday,” instead of early Tuesday. Agence France Presse had it as “down to the Monday 2200 GMT deadline.”
The one who got it exactly right was the Associated Press: “Shortly after a midnight deadline expired…”
Rule of Law
Privately, a number of diplomats and UN officials on Monday had fretted about how to “stop the clock” if necessary. One escape much bandied about was that the deadline could be extended six hours according to the time of New York, home of the General Assembly. Apart from the obvious insult to Geneva, it was a frivolous argument. The terms in question all began on Geneva time. One cannot begin according to one time zone and end using another.
And so when the deadline was missed, most decided simply to pretend the deadline was made. This hardly reflects well upon a community and an institution ostensibly committed to due process and the rule of law.
Consensus Declared—Whether Canada Consented Or Not
For possibly the first time in the history of the United Nations, one of its major bodies has ruled that a consensus vote was achieved even though one of its members—one with a particular reputation for honesty—insists it never gave consent, much less even saw the text that was voted upon. In its most aggressive Orwellian move to date, the UN Human Rights Council declared that this week’s package of new procedures was adopted by consensus, on the night of June 18. (In fact, the rushed declaration of council president Luis Alfonso de Alba was made past the legal midnight deadline, already in the early moments of June 19, but that’s another story.) Canada’s challenge to this interpretation was then overruled by the Council, 46 members to 1, the lone vote being Canada’s. Sure enough, speeches by Council members today and yesterday are crowing about the fact that the newly formed body was born in the purity of consensus. And so the official record will reflect.
Following is Canada’s June 19 statement to the Human Rights Council plenary:
Canada (Point of Order): I have to intervene on a point of order to challenge the interpretation that the proceedings of June the eighteenth constitute an effect that a decision was taken on the package under consideration yesterday. Last night’s decision to adjourn action until today was express in stating that the matter would be brought for action today, and I quote from the President’s statement: In paragraph five of the President’s statement, he notes, “It is literally impossible, because of logistic difficulties, I would like to propose that you accept this text as a compromise under the understanding that it also includes the code of conduct, and that tomorrow the Council can take action on them.”
This did not, and could not, constitute adoption of the package under discussion, as Canada never agreed to it and had expressed its concerns to this effect. In fact, Canada had not even seen the final version of the text until the end of the session, and the draft resolution contained in doc L.2 has only been circulated today. Any other view would forever preclude the ability of a UN committee to adjourn decisions and debate for further consultations. Striking the table with a gavel while stating that action has been postponed does not constitute a decision on a substantive point.
Even the press release of the President clearly states that he had invited the Council members to take action on June the nineteenth, which is today. By denying Canada its right to call for a vote on this subject, this Council threatens to undermine not only its own rules of procedure and those of the General Assembly, but more than sixty years of established practice of the UN, which is based on the fundamental principle of equality of all of its members states. I need not remind the members of the Council that such a precedent stands to affect more than the interests debated today.
[By vote then introduced by the President, the Council ruled 46 to 1 against Canada’s interpretation, effectively ruling that the post-midnight text announced by De Alba was passed by consensus.]
Canada (Explanation of Vote): Allow me now, firstly, to welcome you to the post of President and to also congratulate all the other members of the Bureau. In establishing the Council, the General Assembly set out its guiding principles. These include universality, impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity. Canada therefore regrets that the inclusion in the proposed agenda of the Council of an item that singles out one situation for politicized, selective, partial, and subjective treatment. The proposed agenda item on Palestine and the occupied Arab territories is not consistent with the founding principles of the Council. If this Council is to be credible and effective, we must hold it to standards set out by the General Assembly.
[Egypt, in its first act as new Council member, interrupts Canada with a point of order, but Chair rules that Canada may continue.]
Canada (continuing): We note that while not perfect, there are many positive elements in the proposed package before us today. However, Canada cannot agree to a package that includes an item so clearly contradictory to the principles upon which the Council was founded. In addition, the text fails to treat all mandates equally. While all other mandates have limited terms, the mandate on the Occupied Palestinian Territory does not. The text also fails to renew, and subject to renew, only the mandates on Cuba and Belarus, both situations that clearly warrant continued scrutiny by specific country mandates.