Human Rights Red Alert!
There must exist a penthouse apartment somewhere, in an undisclosed location, where it all goes down. Black-label whiskey and Cuban cigars, middle-aged men in dark suits clustered around a dimly-lit boardroom. It’s the undiscovered nerve-center of synchronized evil and world domination.
Conspiracy theories like the one above attract us because they offer simple explanations to complicated realities. They are dangerous because they distract us from the arduous task of forging culture, the cradle of good and evil. But it’s just as perilous to think that all conspiracies are theories. Some are fact. The one going on in the boardrooms of the United Nations this week is just that. Let’s take a look:
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights was created in 1946 by a world reeling from the horrors of World War II and the revelation of the Holocaust. After two short years of hard and efficient work, the U.N. General Assembly approved unanimously the commission’s proposal. They called it the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was an acknowledgment by world governments that some things are always and everywhere good, and must be defended. It was also a proclamation that some things are always and everywhere evil, and must be rejected.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a precious jewel, and that precious jewel is now under attack.
The attack is from within. It's no surprise. The current members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights include infamous human rights violators: Sudan, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Russia. Past members included Syria, Libya, and Vietnam. Do we need a reminder?
• Sudan was elected to the Human Rights Commission by a majority vote of the General Council in 2004, in the middle of its ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region.
• China is run with an iron fist by the Communist Party. Human Rights Watch has called it a “highly repressive state.”
• Cuba’s prisons are still full of old and new political dissenters 45 years after Castro’s bloody rise to power.
• Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe is notorious for ordering racist anti-white violence, expelling foreign journalists, and rigging his own re-elections.
• Saudi Arabia stamps out free speech, crushes political parties, permits wife-beating, and absolutely prohibits any expression of Christianity.
• Venezuela is a budding dictatorship. President Hugo Chavez has a tight grip on all three branches of government. The guise of democracy makes his antics doubly dangerous.
A jaw-dropping list of scandals within the United Nations, featuring Iraqi oil-for-food corruption and widespread sexual abuse by U.N. peace workers, has Secretary-General Kofi Annan under fire. He has promised to restore credibility to the organization and he knows his legacy depends on it. At the heart of his plan is an overhaul of the discredited Commission on Human Rights. He requested proposals from the 191 member states, and he got a proposal from the United States that was clear and bold:
• Limit commission membership to 30. This would encourage the election of those states with the best human rights records.
• Exclude the membership of any country under Security Council sanctions for human rights violations or terrorism.
• Change election rules to require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.
• Establish regular commission meetings and a trigger mechanism to call for additional sessions as needed.
The president of the General Assemby unveiled last Thursday the final proposal — it was unclear and cowardly. In his plan:
• Any country can be elected regardless of Security Council sanctions for human rights abuse.
• The vague suggestion that a state’s human rights record be “taken into account” is purposely left toothless.
• States must rotate off every two terms. The principal human rights watchdog, the United States, would be off the council at least three years of every nine.
• The balance of power is shifted away from Western regions toward Asia and Africa, where human rights abuses have historically been highest.
• A minority of one-third of member states can call a special session. That’s a sure guarantee that the United States and Israel will continually be hauled into court on trumped-up charges. U.N. history is full of examples.
• A vague clause was added to shield Muslim countries from critique.
• Democratic governments will continue to be a membership minority.
The secretary-general recognized the proposal’s incongruence with his original plan, but strangely called for a hurried vote of approval (remember, his legacy depends on it). Read more. Said Annan, “The proposal isn't everything I asked for, but it is a credible basis to move ahead. There are enough new elements for us to be able to build on.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton agrees that the proposal fails to live up to the secretary-general’s stated wishes, but disagrees on accepting defeat. “What we have been looking for is a substantial reform of the existing human rights decision-making machinery in the U.N. and the question still before us is whether this amounts to substantial reform."
The Deeper Crisis:
Few countries are willing to go back to the founding U.N. documents and see what they signed up for. Few countries dare to use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a reference point for political boundaries. It’s too clear. It’s too committing. Most notable, but not alone, are the countries of Muslim majority. In 1990, for example, the 45 member states of the Islamic Conference adopted an Islamic “response” to the 1948 document. It’s a carbon copy of Sharia law. “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Sharia.” Remember, discrimination against women and non-Muslims is certainly not contrary to those principles. But freedom of religion is.
Toward a solution:
So who really believes in human rights? People do, even if governments don’t. Who would oppose a guarantee to their life, liberty, security of person, education, full participation in cultural life, freedom from torture or inhumane treatment, and liberty of thought and conscience? This is the reality that we must never forget. People believe in human rights.
Can we trust the United Nations? No. Do we need the United Nations? Yes. As deeply flawed and ineffective as it has proven to be, the world needs a meeting point. The drafters of the United Nations Charter knew that the ultimate meeting point is not cultural homogeny, but shared values — a recognition that some things are always and everywhere right, and others wrong. This is a reference point that is under attack, from within.
The United States pays a quarter of the U.N. budget while two-thirds of the states combined pay just 20 percent. That, in my book, is a political mandate to put a halt to a hurried vote. A Human Rights Commission that ignores its reference point is a commission doomed to failure, and doomed to fail us.
Thursday is the scheduled vote. Speak out and speak up. Why the rush, Mr. Secretary-General? Why the rush?
God bless, Father Jonathan
This article is part of a regular blog hosted by Father Jonathan Morris on FOXNews.com. His updates are posted on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Write to him with your opinions or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.