Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Martin LeFevre: The New Human Rights Council

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

The New Human Rights Council

One hopes that the creation of the new Human Rights Council by the United Nations will reverse the global backsliding on human rights in recent years. But for many reasons, that’s not likely. The Human Rights Council is a band-aid that doesn’t even begin to cover the gaping wounds.

Forming a coalition of the trilling, the United States led Palau and the Marshall Islands in voting against the new council. Besides these Lilliputian states, the ‘sole remaining superpower’ was joined in opposing the new council by Israel, a nation that has decades of experience violating the human rights of the Palestinian people.

In a stunning display of both hypocrisy and duplicity, US Ambassador John Bolton said, "We did not have sufficient confidence in this text to be able to say that the Human Rights Council will be better than its predecessor. That said, the United States will work cooperatively with other member states to make the council as strong and effective as it can be.”

Proving once again that the US “war on terror” is actually a war on human feeling and reason, the United States, which should itself be denied a seat on the Human Rights Council, claimed to be standing up for more stringent standards.

As Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies said, "No country with such a record of torture, secret detentions, 'extraordinary renditions,' rejection of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), denial of due process and generations of capital punishment, even for minors and the mentally disabled -- all as a matter of official policy -- should be allowed to serve on the new Human Rights Council."

Coincidentally or not, the ‘new’ “National Security Strategy” for the United States was published the day after the overwhelming UN vote. It upholds the ‘principle’ of preemptive war behind the invasion of Iraq, for which tens of thousands of dead, wounded, tortured, and humiliated Iraqis mutely attest to the grossest contravention of human rights since Saddam Hussein.

The core of Bush’s “National Security Strategy,” sounds the death knell for any hope for reform of the nation-state system: “We are a nation at war. We fight our enemies abroad instead of waiting for them to arrive in our country.” Rounding out the bitter irony, the document concludes by saying that “the United States will lead the effort to reform existing institutions and create new ones.”

Eleanor Roosevelt is turning over in her grave. She was the driving force behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which gave rise to the Human Rights Commission, and now, the Human Rights Council. Appalled by the atrocities of the Holocaust, she sought to clarify, beyond the UN Charter, the rights of the individual. Nearly 60 later, the United States and Israel voted against reforming and strengthening the body derived from this document.

(The scope of the Declaration of Human Rights can be seen in Article 25: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”)

The headline in the Sydney Morning Herald reads: “America can't block UN's new human rights body.” So another charter member of the coalition of the willing, Australia, peels away from the US orbit. Does this mean things will now move in a good direction, and that human rights will find real traction in international relations?

Don’t count on it. The day after UN members voted overwhelmingly to create the new Human Rights Council, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that “the situation in Sudan, and especially the Darfur region, remains a top priority for this administration.” That is an evil lie if there ever was one. The suppurating wound of Darfur is not only a betrayal of the UN Charter and Declaration of Human Rights by the Bush Administration, but a continuing stain on the conscience of humanity.

The Declaration of Human Rights begins, “Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…” Does Darfur outrage the conscience of humankind? Did Rwanda or Srebrenica?

The term ‘human rights’ stands for the protection of the individual from the power and predations of governments. Though the Human Rights Council and the United Nations itself are necessary, they are not sufficient for redressing flagrant violations of human rights. No matter how much they ‘reform,’ they can never provide an adequate response.

Why? Because the United Nations and the international/multilateral order are based on the concept of national sovereignty. National sovereignty is an idea that took root in the 19th century, exploded in the 20th century, and is completely obsolescent in the 21st century. Governments will never surrender their power and privileged status, but violent overthrow is no longer an option.

Is there a space from which people can cooperate without viewing the world through the destructive prisms of nationality, ethnicity, and religion? Yes, in an age of instantaneous, borderless communication, that space already exists. The only thing preventing it from being acted on is a numbing acquiescence to the philosophy, frameworks, and structures of the crumbling status quo.

************

- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: martinlefevre@sbcglobal.net. The author welcomes comments.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news