Published May 09, 2013
Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights official who said last month that the Boston Marathon bombings were connected to the “American global domination project,” apparently can’t be fired from his position, according to the U.S. State Department.
That view is likely to enrage even further members of Congress who have circulated letters urging both U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President Obama to call for Falk’s ouster by the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council. Falk reports to the Council in his role as the U.N.’s “special rapporteur on the situation of the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”
The Council’s next regular session starts at the end of May.
However, according to the State Department official’s interpretation of the rules, whatever the White House or Secretary General Ban does may not matter.
The official told Fox News that due to the independence granted to roving special officials like Falk, whose anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic blog postings have drawn Western outrage for years, “Human Rights Council rules contain no provision for removing or firing a special rapporteur once he or she has been appointed.”
According to the official, who requested anonymity, the only thing that can bring about Falk’s ouster is the Council’s version of term limits: He is not allowed to spend more than six years in his current position—which will end in May 2014.
The use of U.S. contributions to the U.N. to support his mission has already been blocked under general U.S. legislative prohibitions against support for “projects whose purpose is to provide benefits to the Palestine Liberation Organization or entities associated with the PLO,” according to a State Department official.
Falk, an American who is a professor emeritus at Princeton University, could conceivably run for another, different position as a human rights special rapporteur, and gain election by the Council, whose regional membership is heavily weighted toward countries in the developing world that are often sharply unsympathetic to the U.S. and Israel.
In his published analysis, entitled “A Commentary on the Marathon Murders,” Falk wrote, “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world. . . . Especially if there is no disposition to rethink U.S. relations with others . . . starting with the Middle East.”
Falk’s provocative statements and apparently ironclad tenure as a U.N. human rights special rapporteur “embody the infrastructure of anti-Israel prejudice” at the Human Rights Council, according to Hillel Neuer, head of the pro-Israel organization U.N. Watch, which keeps tabs on the Council and its rapporteurs.
It also underscores the problematic nature and financing of what the Council calls its “special procedures,” meaning the growing array of roving U.N. “independent experts” and “special rapporteurs” such as Falk who roam the world in support of a growing and often strange list of U.N.-sponsored human rights mandates.
In all, including Falk, there are now 48 different U.N. special rapporteurs or working groups that report on alleged human rights deficiencies around the world under the auspices of the 47-member Council. Another mandate, covering human rights in Mali, is expected to become active in June.
The U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on its website terms the special procedure experts “a central element of the United Nations human rights machinery.”
Their mandates—generated by resolutions of the Human Rights Council-- range from monitoring human rights practices in specific countries-- North Korea and Iran, to name two--to such exotic new specialties as “monitoring the human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes,” and “the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence” for countries emerging from prolonged civil conflict.
The independent experts and special rapporteurs like Falk are supposed to “uphold independence, efficiency, competence and integrity through probity, impartiality, honesty and good faith,” according to their website. They issue reports annually to the Human Rights Council and also to the U.N. General Assembly, and usually work for the purely nominal sum of $1 per year.
But that doesn’t mean their missions aren’t expensive.
According to internal Human Rights Commission estimates obtained by Fox News, the likely cost of new country-specific mandates for rapporteurs and experts can currently range from about $240,000 each to nearly $600,000 per year.
So-called “thematic” mandates, such as “human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment” and “promotion of a democratic and equitable international order” can apparently range from $500,000 to $1.1 million annually.
The overall total for 2013, according to the OHCHR, is $18.55 million, up marginally from last yet, but a 20 percent hike from $15.5 million in 2011.
The two year total for 2012 and 2013 of $36.9 million is a very impressive portion of the roughly $54.7 million, or 12 percent, of its 2012-2013 annual budget of $448.1 million that the U.N.’s Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights has allocated for not only the special procedures experts but for the entire Human Rights Council.
By way of contrast, the entire proposed budget for the U.S. State Department’s own Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in 2014 comes to about $26.8 million.
The specific U.S. contribution to the U.N. special procedures budget is hard to estimate. Roughly one-third of the overall OHCHR budget comes directly from regular U.N. funding, where the U.S. pays a 22 percent share.
That could mean about $4.1 million in normal U.S. funding for the U.N. is allocated biennially to the special procedures, and donor countries apparently cannot direct how it is spent.
But the remainder of the U.N. human rights budget is supposed to come from “voluntary contributions” and the U.S. is also a major voluntary donor, contributing about $13.2 million overall in 2012, according to OHCHR figures.
The State Department has not yet announced its allocation of voluntary contributions for this year, according to an official. But when it does, the official said, money to support Richard Falk will not be included, due to those U.S. legislative restrictions that also apply for Iran, Cuba, Burma, and North Korea. Because the OHCHR has certified that American government donations will not be used for any of the prohibited purposes, no U.S. funds will be withheld from the agency, the official added.
Nonetheless, Falk’s activities will continued to be funded from other money that the agency receives.
“It is a general observation that a U.N. budget is typically opaque, and difficult to decipher,” observers Brett Schaefer, a U.N. expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But the fact is that the real costs and spending by the U.N.’s special rapporteurs is something a mystery even to the U.N.’s own Board of Auditors.
In their most recent report, which covers the years 2010-2011, the auditors note that OHCHR “mandate holders”—another term for the special rapporteurs and experts—“are not required to disclose support” they may get from institutions or individual governments over and above their OHCHR budgets.
The auditors worried that “the absence of clear disclosures could put in doubt the perceived independence of mandate holders.”
And the number of mandate holders, meantime, keeps growing.
In 2012, according to the OHCHR, the Council created new special rapporteur mandates in Syria, Eritrea and Belarus, added new Independent Experts in Cote d’Ivoire, and Sudan, and instituted new thematic mandates on “the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment;” truth, justice and non-recurrence; and the equitable international order.
“Are all the mandates good and useful?” asks UN Watch’s Neuer. “Do we need a human rights mandate on the right to food? The U.N. has several massive food agencies already. The Human Rights Council can’t feed anyone. Should it be talking about this?”
George Russell is editor-at-large of Fox News and can be found on Twitter @GeorgeRussell.