Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dysfunctional U.N. Human Rights Council Gets a New Ceiling

From November 18, 2008, by Patrick Goodenough:

The United Nations on Tuesday will unveil a multi-million dollar ceiling decoration, ...The Socialist government of [Spain's] Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero contributed almost $14 million of taxpayers’ money to the project, including nearly $1 million earmarked for African aid.

...Miquel Barcelo, a world-renowned Spanish abstract artist, has been working with a team of 20 assistants for more than a year on the 15,000-square-foot ceiling of a conference hall in Geneva, which will become the permanent home of the often-controversial Human Rights Council.

Zapatero will join U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Spain’s King Juan Carlos and 750 guests for the unveiling of the ceiling....

...The Spanish government calls it one of the U.N.’s most significant artworks – some are even calling it “the Sistine Chapel for the 21st century” – but at home, debate has erupted over what critics view as inappropriate use of development aid. Gonzalo Robles, a member of the conservative opposition Popular Party responsible for development, called the use of the funds “immoral” and possibly illegal, asking how many wells could have been dug, vaccines provided or African children helped with the money....

The renovated conference room will be known as the Chamber for Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilizations ...

...the Human Rights Council...has ...been dogged by criticism about a disproportionate focus on Israel, while other situations get scant attention.The council also includes countries with poor human rights records, including Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Cuba and Pakistan.

...Instead of meeting for self-congratulatory ceremonies, the council should do its job and stop ignoring human rights violations around the world,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based non-governmental organization U.N. Watch, said Tuesday.

Neuer said the council had, in its two years of existence, systematically undermined the cause of human rights.

It had also “eviscerated the U.N.’s few existing tools that work,” he said, citing the council’s gradual elimination of human rights monitoring in Belarus, Cuba, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan’s Darfur.

Not only had genocide in Sudan been ignored, Neuer said, but the monitor of the atrocities in that country was also “on the chopping block,” with the mandate set to expire next March.

Noting that 80 percent of country censures by the council had targeted Israel, he said “repressive regimes support these Arab-sponsored and one-sided texts to deflect attention from their own abuses.”

“Never in the history of international human rights has one of its own institutions inflicted so much damage.”

In a letter Tuesday to Ban and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Neuer and Paula Schriefer of the Washington-based human rights watchdog Freedom House urged them to call on the council to convene a special session immediately...

...“As you gather today with world leaders to celebrate the new chamber of the U.N. Human Rights Council, we urge you to take advantage of this moment to turn the international spotlight toward the human rights catastrophe in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” they wrote.“Mass displacement, killings and sexual violence – involving hundreds of thousands of victims, if not more – require an urgent response by the U.N. Human Rights Council.”
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