Vaclav Havel: U.N. human rights elections are a farce

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Jewish critics of the United Nations — and they are legion — rarely fail to make the point that the organization’s failures are not merely a Jewish issue, but impact all of humanity. But only occasionally does someone as prominent and respected as Vaclav Havel give that charge some teeth.

In an Op-Ed in today’s New York TImes, the former Czech dissident and then president calls elections to the (supposedly reformed) rights council a sham.

An essential precondition was better membership. The council’s precursor, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, was folded in 2006 mainly because it had, for too long, allowed gross violators of human rights like Sudan and Zimbabwe to block action on their own abuses.

The council was supposed to be different. For the first time, countries agreed to take human rights records into account when voting for the council’s members, and those member-states that failed to, in the words of the founding resolution, “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” would find themselves up for review and their seats endangered. For victims of human rights abuses and advocates for human rights worldwide, the reforms offered the hope of a credible and effective body.

Now, it seems, principle has given way to expediency. Governments have resumed trading votes for membership in various other United Nations bodies, putting political considerations ahead of human rights. The absence of competition suggests that states that care about human rights simply don’t care enough. Latin America, a region of flourishing democracies, has allowed Cuba to bid to renew its membership. Asian countries have unconditionally endorsed the five candidates running for their region’s five seats — among them, China and Saudi Arabia.

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