Published March 24, 2011
The Obama administration’s U.N.-centered foreign policy reached new heights of incredulity today with the U.N. Human Rights Council adoption of a resolution on Iran. With the Obama team in Geneva at the center of it, the resolution calls for more study of the Iranian human rights record and the submission of a report one year from now.
Instead of blasting the ridiculous excuse for delaying serious action against a notorious regime currently engaged in heinous violations of human rights, the Obama administration actually masterminded the resolution.
Immediately following the resolution’s adoption, U.S.-U.N. Ambassador to Geneva Eileen Donahoe held a news conference in which she declared “what we have just witnessed is a seminal moment for this body – the Human Rights Council – with the establishment of a Special Rapporteur [investigator] on the human rights situation in Iran…Today we’ve seen the Council able to respond to a chronic, severe human rights violator which is Iran, and we’re very pleased with this development.”
The U.N. Human Rights Council’s predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, had adopted an Iran resolution every year from 1984 to 2001. Those resolutions mandated a special investigator to report each year on the gross violations of human rights occurring in Iran. From 1997 onwards Iran refused to allow the investigator into the country to investigate. In 2002 the Commission eliminated the post of investigator. It is a certainty that whoever is appointed to fill the position now recreated by the Human Rights Council will also not be permitted into the country. So the information available to the new investigator will be the same information available to anyone else doing research outside the country. Assuming, of course, that more research is the right answer to tackling human rights violations by Iran.
Less than half the Council members voted in favor of the American-led resolution – the vote was 22 for, 7 against, 14 abstentions and 3 absent. Iranian friends China, Russia, Cuba, and Pakistan voted against. Saudi Arabia merely abstained. Qatar, Kyrgyzstan and Angola ran out of the room so as to avoid being counted. Even so, in order to win, the resolution was minimalist in the extreme. It contains no description of any human rights atrocities being perpetrated by Iran. In fact, a reference which would have “reaffirmed” a resolution from the General Assembly in 2010 criticizing Iran in detail, was deleted.
To recap, the Obama administration’s idea of doing something about the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, on the verge of acquiring the world’s most devastating weapon, currently holding American hostages, and now engaged in a brutal crackdown of Iranian democracy-seekers, is to pass a U.N. resolution calling for the appointment of some individual who will “submit a report for consideration by the Human Rights Council at its 19th session” in March 2012.
Donahoe ended her news conference by lauding what might be called the Obama administration’s my U.N.-do-or-die approach to foreign policy: “we believe the Council has shown itself able to deal more effectively than in the past with emergent crisis situations as in the case of…Libya.” To be clear, the only reason the Council had to “deal” with Libya was that until a few weeks ago Libya was happily ensconced by fellow U.N. states as a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Its membership was proving to be profoundly embarrassing to the U.N. and to President Obama, who decided to join the Council and lend it credibility in the first place.
Donahoe, in fact told the Council today that last September the U.N. General Assembly had a report before it which – in her words – “documents amputations, floggings, and acts of torture carried out by the Iranian government. The report further highlights Iran’s continued sentencing of both men and women to death by stoning.”
Knowing that already, what is the Obama administration’s solution to the ongoing crimes of Iran against its own people, Americans and freedom-loving people everywhere? One more U.N. report, one more year away.
Anne Bayefsky is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.