Correcting the Record on the Human Rights Council

There have been some misstatements recently about the membership of the new UN Human Rights Council by members of Congress who wish to starve it of US funding. Let’s correct the record.

Senator Norm Coleman issued a statement condemning the Council because its members “include many of the worst human rights violators who had made a mockery of the previous commission — Cuba, Iran and Syria.” But Syria and Iran are not on the new Council. In fact, Iran stood for membership, but was not approved by a vote of the General Assembly.Congressman Michael McCaul, during debate on the Science, State, Justice and Commerce appropriations bill, made a similar statement:

It is amazing to me that anybody could agree that state sponsors of terrorism, that it is somehow acceptable that they serve on the Human Rights Council, and specifically countries like China, when we look at their human rights record in Tiananmen Square and the oppression that they have put on their people, countries like Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, which has oppressed women in their society, oppressed their own people to a great extent.

Also Libya and Syria. I think this is a commonsense amendment, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

For the record, only one state sponsor of terrorism – Cuba – is on the Council. All other countries listed as State Sponsors of Terrorism were effectively dissuaded from seeking membership to the new Council because of the stricter membership criteria.

As these members of Congress would have it, the US would turn its back on the Council. And in doing so, they will have condemned the principal international human rights forum to failure and allow the handful of bad apples that remain on the Council to dominate its activities. Rather than isolating itself from the new Council, the US should work with the 37 democracies elected to the 47-member Council to isolate Cuba, strengthen the body’s mechanisms, depoliticize the Council’s activities and ensure future elections exclude countries that commit gross or systematic abuses.