- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 7, 2005

President Bush couldn’t be more right that the United Nations needs reform. The best proof of the need for U.N. reform is the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

There are 53 commission members. How can you take the U.N. seriously when six human-rights commission members are among the most repressive regimes in the world? These six regimes, according to a Freedom House survey, include: China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Instead of harrying U.S. ambassador-designate John Bolton Congress should harry the United Nations for allowing such scandalous behavior. How can China, or Cuba, yes Cuba, be allowed membership on a U.N. commission responsible for monitoring and condemning human-rights violations? Why aren’t there congressional hearings about such immoral, duplicitous behavior at the United Nations?

The first question such a White House conference should ask is: How did China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe become members of a body called the United Nations Commission on Human Rights?

It’s bad enough to have these regimes in the U.N., exercising voting privileges they would not dare allow their own peoples — but have them sitting on the Commission on Human Rights? This is only one of the many macabre jokes about the United Nations: allowing felons to sit in judgment on themselves.

“Repressive governments enjoying CHR membership work in concert,” said Freedom House in its recently published survey, “and have successfully subverted the commission’s mandate. Rather than serving as the proper international forum for identifying and publicly censuring the world’s most egregious human rights violators, the CHR instead protects abusers, enabling them to sit in judgment of democratic states that honor and respect the rule of law.”

A March 21 report by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan admitted the presence of these repressive governments on the CHR has severely injured the U.N. body’s credibility. Mr. Annan recommended creating a reformed “Human Rights Council” whose members would be chosen based on compliance with the “highest human-rights standards.” Three cheers for Kofi Annan — but who will start the ball rolling?

Forgotten is Article 3, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” and Article 18 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed on Dec. 10, 1948:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Those two clauses could well be the keynote of a White House Human Rights Conference to be convened, say, Dec. 10, 2005.

Arnold Beichman is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His updated biography “Herman Wouk, the Novelist as Social Historian,” was recently published.

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