Freedom of expression and protection of human rights as defined in the U.N. Charter are under full-scale attack by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which represents 57 Islamic states.
The OIC, supported by those great human-rights stalwarts, Russia, China and Cuba, forced through an amendment to a resolution on freedom of expression to the Human Rights Council on March 28, 2008.
This amendment will in effect force the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression to report instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination - in other words, to report anyone who exercises their universal right to raise concerns regarding Shariah law.
The widespread riots and violence fueled by the Islamic extremists over Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad is a good example. Under the new rules, it would be the Danes who would be condemned, not the Muslim extremists who called for the cartoonist’s beheading.
The implications are insidious. As an example, Borders bookstores refused to carry the April-May 2006 issue of Free Inquiry Magazine that carried the controversial cartoons because they feared for the security of their stores. More recently, Random House canceled a romantic novel about Muhammad because they were afraid it might provoke Muslim anger. Let’s not forget that Shariah law requires women to be stoned to death for adultery, or people to be killed because they change their religion, or young men to be hanged because they are gay, or marriage to be approved of girls as young as 9, as in Iran.
As the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights demonstrates, Shariah law is incompatible with democracy and human rights international norms.
By way of background, the Human Rights Council was formed to replace the old Commission on Human Rights that had become corrupt and too political in its work, according to the former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. However, since its inception in June 2006, this new council has failed to condemn the most blatant examples of human-rights abuse in countries like Sudan, Byelorussia, Iran, Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and China. However, it systematically condemns Israel and Israel alone. Unsurprisingly, the council is chaired by Cuba.
The United States has only an observer role on the Human Rights Council, asserting the body had lost its credibility with its repeated attacks on Israel and failure to confront other rights abuses.
It is clear the balance of power in the U.N. system has shifted dramatically in favor of the Islamic states. There can no longer be any pretense that the Human Rights Council can defend human rights. The “moral leadership” of the United Nations has defaulted from the nation-states that created the U.N. and that were committed to the concept of equality, individual freedom and the role of law, to the Islamic states whose goal is to promote acceptance of Shariah Law and dominance of Islam as the only true religion.
The current Human Rights Council has lost its sense of direction and should be dissolved. Further, the March 28, 2008, restricted resolution on human rights should be canceled. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello stated it best when he wrote just five months before he was killed by a terrorist bomb in Baghdad: “Membership of the Commission on Human Rights must carry responsibilities. I, therefore, wonder whether the time has not come for the commission itself to develop a code of guidelines for access to membership of the commission. After all, the members of the Commission in Human Rights have a duty to humanity, and the members of the commission must themselves set the example of adherence to the international human rights norms - in practice as well as in law… .”
Clearly, there is no place in any human-rights guidelines for Shariah law. A new human rights organization should be created with a membership that pledges to adopt Sergio de Mello’s guidelines and code of conduct and be held accountable.
James Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations, and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.