The Obama administration got a new “shellacking” this morning, this one entirely voluntary. In the name of improving America’s image abroad, it sent three top officials from the State Department to Geneva’s U.N. Human Rights Council to be questioned about America’s human rights record by the likes of Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.And the response from the United States? It welcomed the catharsis of hearing some of the worst violators in human rights telling us what is wrong with our country. In these days of the moral relativism of the Obama administration, the United States representative to this verbal caning, Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization said, "it is an honor to be in this chamber." Sure why not submit to this opportunity to be criticized if it gives us the opportunity to join the U.N. Rights Council to be present as it regularly singles out Israel as the worst violator of human rights in the world? Is this truly Obama's idea of how to improve relations with the rest of the world?
This was the first so-called “universal periodic review” of human rights in the U.S. by the Council, which the Obama administration decided to join in 2009.
The move represents a striking departure from prior American foreign policy, which has been to ratify selected human rights treaties after due consideration and submit American policy-makers to recommendations based on well-conceived standards accepted by the United States.
But in the three-hour inquisition which took place this morning, Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor responded with “thanks to very many of the delegations for thoughtful comments and suggestions” shortly after Cuba said the U.S. blockade of Cuba was a “crime of genocide,” Iran “condemned and expressed its deep concern over the situation of human rights” in the United States, and North Korea said it was “concerned by systematic widespread violations committed by the United States at home and abroad.”
According to the Council’s procedure, all U.N. members are given carte blanche to comment and make recommendations to the state in the docket. But since only three hours are allotted per state, the practice has emerged of allowing approximately only the first sixty to speak.
This morning fifty-six countries lined-up for the opportunity to have at the U.S. representatives, many standing in line overnight a day ago in order to be near the top of the list. Making it to the head of the line were Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and North Korea.
Recommendations to improve the U.S. human rights record included Cuba’s advice to end “violations against migrants and mentally ill persons” and “ensure the right to food and health.”
Iran – currently poised to stone an Iranian woman for adultery – told the U.S. “effectively to combat violence against women.”
North Korea – which systematically starves a captive population – told the U.S. “to address inequalities in housing, employment and education” and “prohibit brutality…by law enforcement officials.”
Libya complained about U.S. “racism, racial discrimination and intolerance.”
Monday, November 08, 2010
Anne Bayefsky has just an extraordinary story about what has gone on in the U.N. Human Rights Council since Obama joined it.