- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

The House sought to punish the United Nations yesterday by voting to withhold $244 million in dues next year unless the United States regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Democrats joined Republicans in a 252-165 vote that reflected bipartisan outrage over a secret U.N. ballot last week that dumped the United States from the commission it founded more than five decades ago.
Adding to insult, lawmakers said, was the makeup of the new commission, which includes some of the worlds most notorious human rights abusers — China, Cuba, Sudan and Sierra Leone.
"They have taken an irresponsible action, and they are being given an opportunity to rectify it," said Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and a sponsor of yesterdays measure — an amendment to the $8.2 billion State Department and foreign operations authorization bill.
"Actions have consequences. Our U.N. friends have an option — if they would like to get the payment, they will vote the United States back on the commission."
The amendment was co-sponsored by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the International Relations Committee.
He said yesterday that the secret vote to oust the United States from the Geneva-based human rights commission was a "deliberate attempt to punish the United States from telling the truth.
"It is appropriate that the United States send its own message. To do anything less would be to repudiate our own values."
The amendment does not affect the $582 million the United States is scheduled to pay the United Nations this year — the second of three annual payments to clear up nearly $1 billion in back dues to the world body.
But it conditions next years third and final payment on the U.S. regaining membership in the human rights organization it had held since its inception in 1947 when former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was chairman.
The Bush administration opposed the measure, saying payments on U.N. arrears should not be linked to human rights issue.
"We didnt support it; we didnt feel it was the right approach," Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters after yesterdays vote.
"The House has acted; well see what happens next," Mr. Powell said.
Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia Democrat, said she agreed with the administration.
"How can we expect the United Nations to reform if we go back on our word and refuse to pay," Mrs. McKinney said.
The House approved 282-137 a separate amendment that would withhold U.S. aid from any nation that approves of prosecuting U.S. military personnel in the newly created International Criminal Court (ICC).
Lawmakers also voted 225-193 to provide the funds for the United States to rejoin the U.N.s Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Debate on the most controversial amendment, dealing with abortion and U.S. funding to foreign family planning organizations, will be taken up next week, along with some 22 additional amendments.
A vote on the entire bill could come as late as May 18. The bill funds the State Department, foreign operations, and includes money to upgrade security at embassies around the world.
Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who sponsored the amendment on the ICC, said he feared the new court would become a vehicle for political vendettas against the United States.
"We ask a lot of our armed forces. We shouldnt ask them to sacrifice their constitutional rights merely to serve as pawns for an International Criminal Court that may pursue political vendettas at the expense of individual American soldiers," Mr. DeLay said.
Mr. Hyde, voting in favor of the amendment, said that the ICCs language and membership requirements are so vague that nations hostile to the United States, like those in Europe that secretly voted the United States out of the human rights commission, could interpret normal U.S. military responsibilities as "a crime of aggression."
"Who decides what is (a crime of aggression), a Chinese court? Maybe flying along the Chinese coast? Why submit our servicemen to this?" he said, referring to Chinas recent detention of a U.S. aircrew whose surveillance plane made an emergency landing on Hainan island.
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, agreed.
"Our servicemen would be subject to politically motivated charges," he said. "Rogue states would sit in black robes and judge our servicemen and women."
In voting against the ICC amendment, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat, called the bill a "farce" and a "lie," saying it would have the opposite effect of Mr. DeLays intention.
"We are the leaders of the world when it comes to human rights. We should be the leaders of the world in the world court," he said.
The debate on whether to rejoin UNESCO was equally emotional.
The bill as written would provide funding for the United States to rejoin the U.N. organization that identifies World Heritage Sites and funds education and scientific cooperation.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, argued for the provision to be stricken, because "no one knows what UNESCO does."
The United States withdrew from UNESCO in 1984 because it was considered a corrupt, ineffective forum for anti-Americanism.
Advocates, including many who were in favor of the U.S. withdrawal in the 1980s, say the organization has reformed.
"It has corrected its ways," said Mr. Lantos, noting that the $130 million required for two years of membership amounts to just "25 cents per person, per year."
Mr. Hyde said UNESCO is funding tourist renovations in Cuba, one of the nations that successfully lobbied to have the United States removed from the human rights organization.
"UNESCO is renovating downtown Havana," he said. "I dont see why taxpayers from my district should have to pay for that."


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