EU member states should follow the US and leave the UNHRC

The European Union, or more precisely its member states, should follow the US lead and leave this comedy, aka the UNHRC.

By TOMAS ZDECHOVSKY
July 22, 2018 09:53
OVERVIEW OF the Human Rights Council at the UNHRC

UNHRC 150. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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Disagreeing a priori with any decision of US President Donald Trump has already become almost a part of European political culture. However, I consider this kind of thinking completely false and on the level of a stubborn toddler. If we want politics to be meaningful, we need to learn to distinguish.

When Trump decided to leave the Paris Agreement, I considered it to be a serious mistake and altogether very bad news for the global climate. However, I consider his decision to leave the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) very positively. Why? In short, because this body no longer fulfills its original mission. I will explain in detail.

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Bias of UN against Israel

Not only is the UNHRC historically affected by bias against Israel, forgetting misdemeanors of various dictatorships, but so is the entire UN. Even then-secretary general of the UN Kofi Annan admitted in 2006 that the supporters of Israel frequently feel that: “Israel is often judged based on standards that are not applied to its enemies.” And what is important, it is especially often true in some of the UN bodies.

This bias began in the first post-war decades, when the number of independent states increased – mostly outside the Western world – and thus also the UN’s membership. Consequently, free and democratic Western countries were pulling on the shorter end of the rope. Especially since the 70s, after the Six-Day and Yom Kippur Wars, the Arab bloc had already shown clear attempts to use the UN as a tool for enforcing their anti-Israel policy. A similar policy was also mutually promoted by the Soviet bloc and a number of so-called “neutral” countries.

Probably the most ingloriously known moment in this regard was the approval of the resolution against Zionism in the mid-70s. On the occasion of the anniversary of the anti-Jewish Kristallnacht in 1975, the UN General Assembly audaciously approved, by a ratio of 72 to 35 votes (with 32 countries abstaining), resolution No. 3379 comparing Zionism with racism. Then-communistic Czechoslovakia was among those 72 countries voting in favor. Fortunately, the resolution was later revoked by a vote of 111 to 25, but this only happened over 15 years later in 1991.

The UN fails in the area of human rights

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Let’s come back to the activities of the UNHRC. The fact that free countries are in a minority in the world, and the proportion of powers is therefore leaning in a favor of undemocratic countries that have problems with human rights compliance, is also true today. That also gives a shape to the decision-making of the UN, especially when it comes to Israel.

The reputation of the UNHRC’s predecessor, the Commission for Human Rights, was rather poor. While unfree member countries criticized the West for all possible reasons, they did not criticize themselves. Eventually, even Annan admitted that the commission was not beneficial for the reputation of the UN. The UNHRC – the commission’s successor, established in 2006 – is the outcome of an attempt to improve the rather poor reputation of the commission in the area of human rights. The result? The situation has not improved.

Within the UNHRC, Israel is subjected to a special item about human rights called Agenda 7. Its name is “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” According to the UN monitoring group UN Watch, during the 11 years from its founding in June 2006 until June 2016, the UNHRC issued a total of 135 resolutions against human rights violating countries; a full half of them (68) condemned Israel.

Second place was taken by Syria with 20 resolutions against it and third was Burma with 11. Today’s indisputably most horrifying totalitarian regime – North Korea – had been condemned only nine times, putting it fourth on the list of the most condemned countries. Fifth position is shared by Belarus and Iran with six resolutions each. The criticism concerning human rights issues had been aimed at only a few other countries, namely Eritrea (five times), Sudan and Sri Lanka (three), Libya (twice) and Burundi and Honduras (once).

One might wonder whether I forget to mention some other countries – like Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba or Zimbabwe. No – unfortunately, I haven’t forgotten any of them, because none of those countries were criticized even once in a resolution. What else can we expect from a body which counts among its members Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China? If you want to see clear proof of bias against Israel, there you have it!

Just to clarify, I would like to add that, even after counting resolutions issued after June 2016, the total percentages have only slightly improved. According to UN Watch data, from its founding until the end of May 2018, out of the 169 resolutions adopted by the UNHRC in Geneva 80 (47%) were against Israel.

In comparison to what I mentioned before, there is only one little detail – the UNHRC summoned 28 special assemblies devoted to human rights and their violation, of which eight (thus “only” 29%) were directed against Israel. Syria was the subject of five special assemblies and Burma only.

Europe should follow the US

The fact that the UNHRC devotes way more time to Israel than to North Korea, Cuba or Syria only confirms that its agenda is politicized and biased. The US already reacted many times in the past against efforts to politicize UN activities. For instance, in 1977 they left the International Labour Organization for a period of two years because of its anti-Israel stance. Then in 1984, the US left UNESCO because of its bias against Israel. They rejoined the organization in 2003, and left for the second time last year for the same reason.

And how about European countries? So far it seems that Europeans play the role of a quiet observer in an ugly and absurd play. This must end, however, and Europe can’t stay behind. The European Union, or more precisely its member states, should follow the US lead and leave this comedy, aka the UNHRC.

I cannot see one reason why we should continue with this farce and thus willingly and continually support the cynical agenda of dictators who, in the fight for their aims and interests, use the argument of human rights as a currency!

Tomas Zdechovsky is a Czech member of the European Parliament for the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats).

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