Tuesday, May 8, 2001

What kind of international organization expels a member nation because it insists that the body live up to the principles outlined in its charter? Answer: The United Nations Human Rights Commission.

On May 3 the United States lost its seat on the commission for the first time since it helped found the body in 1947, for reasons having nothing to do with its commitment to human rights. Adding insult to injury, other nations with shameful records on human rights, such as Sudan and Libya, were chosen for membership.

Though the United States received assurances of support from more than 40 nations, only 29 of those nations fulfilled their promises. The rest betrayed us in the secret vote.

Many rights-abusing nations voted against U.S. membership in order to avoid its scrutiny of human rights violations. If you stack an enforcing body with fellow violators you go a long way toward establishing immunity for miscreant nations. Congressman Henry Hyde affirmed, “This is a deliberate attempt to punish the United States for its insistence that the commission tell the truth about human rights abuses wherever they occur. This commission includes some of the world’s premier human rights violators.”

But escaping accountability wasn’t the only reason the United States was rejected. There were other reasons, having more to do with punishing the U.S. for its political decisions and diplomatic statements than anything remotely related to the cause of human rights.

Some nations voted against the United States because of its controversial positions on such issues as a treaty on land mines and its refusal to support the International Criminal Court - a decision, by the way, which appears increasingly judicious right now.

Other nations lashed out against the U.S. because of the Bush administration’s wise decisions to reject the Kyoto global-warming pact and begin development of a defensive missile shield (SDI).

Another factor was that certain nations, such as Red China and Communist Cuba who are frequent targets of American criticism, lobbied against continued U.S. membership. China was particularly perturbed at the United States for introducing Resolution L. 13, condemning China for the “severe restrictions” it imposes “on the rights of citizens to the freedoms of assembly, association, expression, conscience and religion, and to due legal process and a fair trial.”

The irony of the vote is that it will not harm the United States — whose citizens enjoy constitutional rights — but citizens of other nations whose governments consistently deprive them of basic liberties. President Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, observed, “The said thing is not for the United States. The said thing is that the country that has been the beacon for those fleeing tyranny for 200 years is not on this commission, and Sudan is on this commission. It’s very bad for those people who are suffering under tyranny around the world, and it is an outrage.”

While some are wringing their hands at this “terrible blow” to the United States, my attitude is, “good riddance.” I’m gratified that this disgraceful organization again showed its true colors while the United States is in the midst of weighing its participation in other international organizations and treaties. (Remember, this is the body that condemned Israel for violence against Palestinians and gave the Palestinians a pass.) Maybe this will be a lesson to us about the dangers of surrendering our sovereignty to nations hostile to our national interests.

Not if the blame-America-first Democratic leadership has anything to say about it. Instead of condemning the rogue nations responsible, they are exploiting the incident to score political points against the Bush administration.

Congressman Gephardt issued a statement blaming the United States’ loss of membership on the Bush administration’s policies regarding Kyoto and SDI. “I hope the Bush administration shifts course, and learns that our government must work cooperatively with our allies and other nations when possible to have influence abroad.”

As usual, Gephardt is 180 degrees out of phase with reality. While he would have the United States kowtow to outlaw nations in order to gain membership in an organization that would further compromise our national interests, the Bush administration is wisely segregating the issue of civil rights from those such as global warming, SDI and international justice.

Our ouster from the Commission is not our loss, but that of the cause of human rights and freedom.

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