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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 2nd, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 From Anne Bayefsky
info@EYEontheUN.org

New York, April 2, 2011
Syria, the U.N. “Human Rights” Council,  and the Obama Administration.

This article by Anne Bayefsky appears today on The Weekly Standard.

The Obama administration’s effort to draw an artificial distinction between the butchers in Damascus and the gangsters in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, has taken a bizarre twist: Syria is seeking a seat on the U.N.’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council. And, as part of the process leading up to the May 20, 2011 elections, the U.N. published a Syria’s “pledge” to protect human rights on Thursday. (that is March 30, 2011 – while the news were full of Syria represing its citizens who call out for democracy – is the whole decent world crazy or folks at the UN and in Washington are plain fakes? That seems to us the real question – the editor of www.SustainabiliTank.info)

For context, this is the same pledge system that Muammar Qaddafi’s regime used to get a seat on the Council last May. Rather than refusing to legitimize a scheme that makes a mockery of the institution, the Obama administration announced hours before that it has decided to seek a second term on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The announcement comes a whopping 14 months before the U.S. term on the Council expires, making the declaration totally unnecessary to guarantee American reelection. Instead, it seems, President Obama aims to preempt mounting criticism of his decision to participate, as well as to minimize the serious menace posed by Syria’s ambitions. The move comes at precisely the wrong moment in time.

The Council was created in 2006 without any criteria for membership. The only advice given to the General Assembly says that, when electing Council members, states should “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.” Hence, Syria produced a pledge.

Notwithstanding the current bloody campaign by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad to annihilate democracy-seekers, the Syrian pledge says: “Promotion and protection of human rights are of highest importance to Syria…Syria’s candidature to the Human Rights Council signifies its commitment to respect and to support the inalienable and indivisible nature of all human rights.”

The State Department’s most recent annual report on Syria describes the situation somewhat differently. It recounts that Syrian security forces “continue to use torture frequently” and describes in gruesome detail exactly which body parts Assad’s henchmen routinely mutilate, and how.

Undaunted, Syria’s pledge continues: “Syria believes that its membership on the Human Rights Council would contribute towards enriching the quality of dialogue…aimed at the promotion and protection of human rights for all peoples.” What this means is a bit of a mystery. But perhaps this example of Syrian dialogue, from a June 8, 2010 speech at the Council, might be what the Assad regime has in mind. “This is a state that is built on hatred,” a Syrian diplomat told the Council. “Let me quote a song that children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘with my teeth I will rip your flesh with my mouth I will suck your blood.’”

Syria’s pledge is accurate on one count, though. It says: “Syria believes that its membership…would contribute to accomplish the objectives of the Council.”  Since the Council systematically demonizes Israel – the Council has adopted the same number of resolutions and decisions condemning Israel as the rest of the 191 UN countries combined – Syria’s assistance is assured.

The pledge is expected to guarantee Syria a seat on the Council because its candidacy is currently part of a fixed slate. To date, the Asian group of states have put forward exactly the same number of candidates as the spaces they have been allotted. The same gimmick by the African group last May succeeded in electing Libya, after Qaddafi pledged: “the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights principles.” 82 percent of the U.N. General Assembly thought that was good enough to welcome Libya aboard the U.N.’s idea of a human rights agency.

Why, then, does President Obama share Syrian and Libyan enthusiasm for the Council? This week’s announcement that his administration wants a second term was accompanied by a list of responses to this question, each more specious than the next.

The justifications include: “The Council took bold, assertive action to highlight Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation.” That “bold” step consisted of a resolution appointing one individual to “investigate” Iran’s human rights violations and report back to the Council a year from now.

Then the administration pointed to “efforts to renew the mandate of the independent expert tasked with monitoring human rights throughout Sudan.” It neglects to mention, however, that the mandate was renewed only after excising all criticism of the government of  Sudan from the Council resolution and substituting such praise as: “recognizing…the efforts of the government of the Sudan in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

The U.S. list also emphasizes the president’s “pivotal role” in suspending Libyan membership from the Council. This “success” (which should never have been necessary to begin with), somehow overlooks the fact that human rights paragons and Council members like Saudi Arabia and China remain comfortably in place.

Then there is the stunning misrepresentation of “a strong statement on LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] rights” from “a group of 85 countries,” that the Obama team heralds as a “landmark moment” for the U.N. Joined by less than half of U.N. members, a mere statement carries with it no practical consequences. And just two days later, the Council adopted a contrary resolution over the wishes of the same coalition. When the resolution on “traditional values of humankind” was passed, the American delegate specifically lamented that it “undermine[d]…the rights of…LGBT individuals.”

The administration even claims to have “end[ed] the divisive debate over the highly problematic concept of ‘defamation of religions.’” But the resolution ( by the UN Council on Human Rights  – Our Comment) on religion which was adopted specifically cites as a role model a “speech given by Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu,” delivered on September 16, 2010. In that same speech, not only did Ihsanoglu refer to the defamation of religions, he declared that Islamic law trumps human rights. In his words: “the holy Quran…places a premium on human dignity — a concept that transcends human rights. Furthermore, a December 2010 resolution of the General Assembly necessitates that a report on the “defamation of religions” be completed by the fall. Making reports of its demise premature, to say the least.

Overall, U.S. membership on the Council has been so “successful” that, at its latest session, the U.S. lost eleven of the fourteen votes held.

Most significantly, the session marked the end of the Council’s own five-year review. The administration billed membership as the golden ticket for ensuring reform “from within.” As it turned out, every serious recommendation that the Obama administration put forward on reform (39 of 42) was firmly rejected, ensuring nothing but more of the same in the years ahead.

We are left with the troubling reality that both Assad and Obama are enchanted with the same U.N. Human Rights Council, to the detriment of human rights victims in Syria and around the world (writes Anne Bayefsky and she has made some points in which she discredited the whole UN system – really not just the Washington Administration. Where is the EU? Where are the African States? Where are all those despots that do or do not own oil wells? Those are Our Comments)

======================

Membership of the Human Rights Council

Officers of the Human Rights Council

President
H.E. Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow (Thailand) (Biography)

Vice President and Rapporteur
H.E. Madam Bente Angell-Hansen (Norway)

Vice Presidents
H.E. Mr. Arcanjo Maria Do Nascimento (Angola)
H.E. Mr. Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez (Cuba)
H.E. Mr. Fedor Rosocha (Slovakia)

Membership of the Human Rights Council 19 June 2010-18 June 2011

  • by regional groups
  • by yearCountry and year when current mandate ends.
    We noted in red countries where citizens are fighting now the government for their human rights. It seems to us that membership on the Council is tantamount to the perception of outside legitimization of the ongoing repression. That is the essence of beef that Anne Bayefsky holds against President Obama. The question is if he is better off fighting repression from inside the Council or deligitimizing the Council by staying out of it. We have no answer but we think that it is all of the UN system – its voting by regions – is what deserves deligitimization by countries that allow for democracy. It is the UN as such that does not reside in Hall of Democracy and that deserves attention five times every day.
Angola 2013
Argentina 2011
Bahrain 2011
Bangladesh 2012
Belgium 2012
Brazil 2011
Burkina Faso 2011
Cameroon 2012
Chile 2011
China 2012
Cuba 2012
Djibouti 2012
Ecuador 2013
France 2011
Gabon 2011
Ghana 2011
Guatemala 2013
Hungary 2012
Japan 2011
Jordan 2012
Kyrgyzstan 2012
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya * 2013
Malaysia 2013
Maldives 2013
Mauritania 2013
Mauritius 2012
Mexico 2012
Nigeria 2012
Norway 2012
Pakistan 2011
Poland 2013
Qatar 2013
Republic of Korea 2011
Republic of Moldova 2013
Russian Federation 2012
Saudi Arabia 2012
Senegal 2012
Slovakia 2011
Spain 2013
Switzerland 2013
Thailand 2013
Uganda 2013
Ukraine 2011
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2011
United States of America 2012
Uruguay 2012
Zambia 2011

________________________
* Libya – Suspended by General Assembly Resolution A/65/265 adopted on 1 March 2011.

======================================
The election of 15 members of the Human Rights Council will be held on 20 May 2011.

See List of candidates | List of current members

In accordance with paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 the Council shall consist of 47 Member States, which shall be elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly.

The membership shall be based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats shall be distributed as follows among regional groups:

  • Group of African States (13)
  • Group of Asian States (13)
  • Group of Eastern European States (6)
  • Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (8)
  • Group of Western European and other States (7)

The members of the Council shall serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.

Member States who have chosen to announce their candidacies in writing are listed below. Voluntary pledges that Member States have chosen to provide in support of their respective candidacies, in accordance with paragraph 8 of General Assembly resolution 60/251, are issued as General Assembly documents in all official languages.

List of candidates

Click on country name below for additional information on candidature.

African States
(4 vacant seats)
Asian States
(4 vacant seats)
Eastern European States
(2 vacant seats)
Latin American & Caribbean States
(3 vacant seats)
Western European & other States
(2 vacant seats)
Benin India
[A/65/758]
Czech Republic
[A/65/757]
Chile
[A/65/730]
Austria
[A/65/781]
Botswana [A/65/732] Indonesia Georgia Costa Rica Italy
[A/65/733]
Burkina Faso Philippines
[A/65/790]
Romania
[A/65/794]
Nicaragua  
Congo
[A/65/787]
Syrian Arab Republic
[A/65/784]
  Peru  

====================================

List of current members

Members outlined in bold will retire on 18 June 2011.

African States Asian States Eastern European States Latin American &
Caribbean States 
Western European
& other States
Angola 2013 Bahrain 2011 Hungary 2012 Argentina 2011 Belgium 2012
Burkina Faso 2011 Bangladesh 2012 Poland 2013 Brazil 2011 France 2011
Cameroon 2012 China 2012 Republic of Moldova 2013 Chile 2011 Norway 2012
Djibouti 2012 Japan 2011 Russian Federation 2012 Cuba 2012 Spain 2013
Gabon 2011 Jordan 2012 Slovakia 2011 Ecuador 2013 Switzerland 2013
Ghana 2011 Kyrgyzstan 2012 Ukraine 2011 Guatemala 2013 United Kingdom 2011
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 2013 Malaysia 2013   Mexico 2012 United States 2012
Mauritania 2013 Maldives 2013   Uruguay 2012  
Mauritius 2012 Pakistan 2011      
Nigeria 2012 Qatar 2013      
Senegal 2012 Repulic of Korea 2011      
Uganda 2013 Saudi Arabia
2012
     
Zambia 2011 Thailand 2013      

===================================

Austria is a candidate for the Council on the Europe and “Other States – like the US” UN ticket. We find thus quite interesting that the Salzburg Festival 2011 has cancelled the opening speech by Swiss Diplomat Jean Ziegler who represented the worst of the UN Human Rights Council. His replacement by the musical genius Daniel Barenboim is really not just an accnowledgement of his musical tallents, but also of his humanitarian activities that outshine everything that the Council was intended to be.We hope that those interested to find out more about this will follow our links. Just see some points in the remnant of this posting – please:

“UN Watch has assembled a cross-regional coalition of 45 human rights groups who will be officially demanding that the U.N. Human Rights Council fire its long-time official, ” said Neuer. “Tragically, Ziegler is not a bureaucratic anomaly or a tolerated annoyance at the council — he is the product and embodiment of a distinct political culture, where abusers like China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia get to judge others on human rights, and where murderers like Syria’s Assad get a free pass.”

Victory: Salzburg Festival cancels on U.N. rights official Jean Ziegler over Qaddafi ties.

Opening Speech and Concert of the Salzburg Festival

Barenboim will deliver the opening speech of the Salzburg Festival this year on July 26th. Previous opening speakers have included George Steiner, Václav Havel, Christoph Ransmayr, and most recently Daniel Kehlmann in 2009. On the same evening, Barenboim will conduct and perform with the Vienna Philharmonic in a program that includes Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, Boulez’s Notations, and Bruckner’s Te Deum. Click here for exact program details.

please see also: www.danielbarenboim.com/index.php?id=9

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