Thursday, March 4, 2010

Now Iran Wants a Seat on the UN Human Rights Council

by Claudia Rosett at

Yes, you read that right. While beating, jailing, raping, torturing and murdering its dissidents, Iran’s Islamic regime is now campaigning for — what else? — a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The Tehran government that brought us the killing last June of Neda Soltan now aspires to a new perch at the United Nations where the ayatollahs can wrap themselves in the UN flag while condemning the free world and redefining “human rights” to absolve or ignore their own atrocities.

New members of the 47-member UN Human Rights Council will be “elected” by secret ballot of the 192-member UN General Assembly this May. The seats, which carry terms of three years each, are allocated among regional groups. Iran is a member of the Asian group, which now has five candidates running for four seats: Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, Thailand… and Iran. Which means Iran, with its oil-fueled, terror-backed clout, has a good chance of winning a seat already; and if any one of the other four contenders drops out, Iran could be an automatic shoe-in, if the UN General Assembly follows its usual practice under such circumstances of filling the open seats by acclamation.

More details on this process in my column this week for “Don’t Let Iran On the Human Rights Council.”

The last time Iran tried this stunt was 2006, when John Bolton was serving as President George Bush’s ambassador to the UN. I had a chance to hear Bolton talk about that this past Thursday, when we were both interviewed about Iran on Fox Business TV by David Asman. Asman asked Bolton how Iran was kept off the Human Rights Council in 2006. Bolton answered that this had entailed a big effort by the entire State Department, reaching out within the UN itself and enlisting U.S. embassies around the world to make the case to America’s friends, allies (and, I would guess, acquaintances) that it would be immensely damaging to let Iran win a seat. Iran lost.

The Bush administration was able to accomplish that much even without having a seat on the Human Rights Council itself – which the U.S. in 2006, under Bush and Bolton, declined to join, on grounds that it was too flawed in design to do a decent job. That concern has been richly vindicated. Since the “reformed” Human Rights Council was launched in 2006, it has reverted to the same Orwellian failings as its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission — absolving or ignoring most of the world’s worst human rights abusers (including Iran, on which it has issued not a single condemnatory resolution), and focusing most of its efforts instead on condemning the democratic nation of Israel. Last year alone, the Human Rights Council brought us both the anti-Semitic Durban Review Conference, and terror-biased Goldstone Report).

Under President Barack Obama’s policy of “engagement,” the U.S. reversed course last year, seeking and winning a seat on the Human Rights Council. The rationale of Obama’s UN ambassador Susan Rice was that the U.S. could better leverage good behavior from the Council by “working within.” The effect has been to confer on the Council a renewed legitimacy, which may help explain why Iran again covets a seat.

For Iran to win that seat would send a terrible, disheartening message to the dissidents inside Iran — effectively telling them that the “international community” sides with the thug regime now beating, jailing and killing them in reply to their demands for basic human rights. So where’s the Obama administration on this? We’ve heard nothing yet. Surely “engagement” does not extend to letting Iran slide into a seat on the UN Human Rights Council?

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