Looks like the U.S. has decided to give up on playing a role in the farce that is the U.N. Human Rights Council – or, at least, has decided to posture as if it is doing so. From a State Department press briefing last Friday:
QUESTION: Another subject? Did U.S. decide to cut all cooperation with the Council on Human Rights?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. Look, our skepticism regarding the function of the UN Council on Human Rights in terms of fulfilling its mandate and its mission is well known. It has a rather pathetic record in that regard. Instead of focusing on some of the real and deep human rights issues around the world, it has really turned into a forum that seems to be almost solely focused on bashing Israel.
In the – the Secretary has taken the decision that we will engage the Human Rights Council really only when we believe that there are matters of deep national interest before the Council and we feel compelled; otherwise, we are not going to. Part of our strategy is to take a look at any suggestions or thoughts we might have to improve the performance of the Council. There’s a five-year review period, and that review period is going to fall outside the term of this Administration, but of course, we’ll – we feel as stewards of the national interest, we are going to think about ways that might improve the function of the Council.
QUESTION: So what does that mean, and when was this decision made?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t tell you what day, but recently.
QUESTION: Well, what does it mean that you will engage the Council only when there are matters of deep national interest? I notice that today – that, I mean, at the (inaudible) today, they were speaking about Burma. Isn’t that something of deep national interest to the United States? You didn’t speak to – they didn’t speak to that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You know, simply put, Matt, because we don’t think it is a serious institution in dealing with human rights —
QUESTION: No, no, I understand that.
MR. MCCORMACK: — human rights issues, we are going to take a more reserved approach in terms of engaging the Council, just because the – our ability and the ability of others to really influence this body is proven to be rather minimal over the past couple of years, and as a result we are just – we’re going to choose more selectively how and when to engage the Council.
The Council currently includes China, Cuba, and Egypt. That's like having a U.N. Council on Physical Fitness staffed by Fat Bastard, Keith Richards, and me.
This is probably the right call for now. The Council's a joke. It's ineffectual at actually protecting human rights — probably because it's staffed by countries for whom human rights is at best a low priority and at worst a slogan used by Western countries to criticize them. It's obsessed with foolishness like banning "defamation of religion." It's unapologetically and transparently biased against Israel. Continued participation by the U.S. would just give it more credibility than it deserves. And it's not like the U.S. itself has much human rights credibility these days. Though a colorable argument can be made that anything we've done since 9/11 pales in comparison to routine human rights abuses in other countries, we certainly are not covering ourselves in human rights glory, and it's unlikely that any country is interested in sitting still to hear us talk about it.
Although this administration's decision to walk away from the Council is almost certainly posturing and in support of policies with which I disagree, I think it's the right step.