- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

The United States asked for a better Human Rights Commission from the United Nations. Instead we got Cuba, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia on a Human Rights Council so dominated by unfree nations that nearly half fail to win Freedom House’s blessing as free and democratic.

In recent months, a lively debate emerged about U.S. policy toward the council. One side favored engagement; the other side thought it was hopeless. Both sides had reasonable arguments. It was a close call. But the Bush administration sided against legitimating the council by running for a seat. The United States can influence the council from the outside, and could run for a seat if and when the council ever shapes up, it argued.

The immediate decision not to join looks to be vindicated. But everything prior to that suggests the administration was overtaken by events.

The wrong countries are in charge of this council — starting with maximum three-year terms for four rights-abusers: Cuba, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. But it gets worse. As Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute pointed out yesterday on the Op-Ed page, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is the council’s big swing bloc. OIC members managed to win more than a quarter of the seats by virtue of winning more than half of the seats for Asian and African countries. Among the OIC winners are Algeria, Tunisia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. No one thinks this league of human-rights abusers will relinquish the human-rights cudgel now that it has won it. Expect to hear Orwellian-sounding dictators and double-talking thugocracies lecturing Europe and the United States on our supposedly regrettable human-rights policies.

In some respects, then — presuming the United Nations itself does not sink into irrelevance — this will end up being a large foreign-policy blot on the Bush administration’s record.

About the only consolation at this point is that Iran’s bid to join the council was defeated.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of the commentary from the victors. As one Chinese official writing in the People’s Daily put it: “[W]hen we look at the replacement of the widely criticized Human Rights Commission with the Council and its successful election, we may draw a conclusion: the U.S. dominance over [the] human rights course of the world has gone forever.”

Proving him wrong should become a very high priority for the Bush administration.

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