Human rights low in Geneva?


One of the top candidates to be the new U.N. high commissioner for human rights may bring the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva to new lows, warns one pro-Israel watchdog organization.

Mexican Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba – who is the front-runner for the post, according to Human Rights Tribune, rarely missed an opportunity to single out Israel for special opprobrium during his year as president of the Council, according to Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch. Neuer clashed with de Alba in this session of the Human Rights Council.

This week, Neuer had this to say to JTA about de Alba, who was president of the Human Rights Council from mid-2006 to mid-2007:

“His record was one of weakness, at best, in the face of the takeover by the Islamic group of the Human Rights Council. He oversaw the massive erosion of what was already a problematic institution. Under his watch, the supposedly reformed U.N. Council ended its scrutiny of Belarus, ended its scrutiny of Cuba, and he refused to let Canada vote on its package of reforms. He also oversaw the singling out of Israel as a permanent agenda item at the Human Rights Council.”

The current high commissioner, Louise Arbour, has held the post for four years. She, too, has endured her fair share of criticism from the pro-Israel camp – residents of Sderot stoned her when she visited the town in November 2006, just a few months after she warned during the Israel-Hezbollah war that “those in positions of command and control” could be subject to “personal criminal responsibility” for their actions in the 2006 war. But if Arbour is succeeded by de Alba, the Council will only get worse, Neuer warns.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who can be seen here smiling with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a meeting in Tehran in March, reportedly is another leading candidate for Arbour’s position.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights is an appointee of the U.N. secretary-general. Spokesman Brenden Varma told JTA on Monday that Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon hopes to make his appointment by the end of June.

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