American taxpayers often are unaware of the resources they provide to international bodies and they are even less familiar with what they get in exchange for this financial support.
Take the United Nations Commission for Human Rights for instance. The august sounding organization???s formal responsibilities are to ???promote and protect human rights for all??? speak out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide??? and developing responses to today???s human rights challenges.???
In a complex world one might imagine that there are numerous issues for this body to address. Abuses of the citizens of China by the authoritarian one-party dominated government, the brutal and indiscriminate murder of civilians by the Syrian government or perhaps the mass murder of religious minorities in the Central African Republic ??? any of these would be very easy and clear targets for a legitimate human rights organization to focus on.
However, you might be surprised to know that the low hanging fruit isn???t the priority of the commission. Since the $4.3 billion dollar budget of the Commission comes with almost no restraints or limits requiring a focus on actual human rights issues, the commission is free to explore almost any topic it chooses and that???s what it does.
Last year the Commission announced that it was focusing on whether US Voter ID laws ran afoul of America???s international treaty obligations. In collaboration with the NAACP, the Geneva based UN commission announced that it was presenting a ???list of issues??? to the American government including a formal requirement that the US justify policies that are established by various states to counter voter fraud, including Voter ID laws.
Earlier this fall, the Commission found time to weigh in on the police shooting incident in Ferguson. Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence that Michael Brown???s death came about as a result of the criminal acts that he engaged in before and during his encounter with officer Darren Wilson, the U.N. Commission invited the Brown family to testify before a hearing and afterwards issued a 14 page condemnation of America???s record on race and specifically singled out America???s ???militarized approach to policing??? which as a ???disproportionate impact on communities of color.???
Moreover, even when the commission focuses on international issues it shows a striking level of incompetence and bias. Just last month the Commission was in the news over its ham-fisted response to its own inquiry into alleged Sri Lankan war crimes. The inquiry, which began in March of this year was supposed to focus on whether there was sufficient evidence to believe that a ???full-blown??? investigation was needed about the government???s role in rights violations during the 25-year Sri Lankan civil war.
When recent reports came out that the initial phase of the inquiry had been tainted by fake claims of torture, false victim reports, and payments made to refugees if they presented rights violations to the UN, the Commission responded by condemning Sri Lanka and its democratically elected government.
According to a report last month in the UK???s Daily Mail, the Commission responded to these concerns by accusing Sri Lanka of conducting a campaign of ???distortion and disinformation??? and even of preventing witnesses from submitting evidence.
In each of these instances, instead of staying focused on bona-fide human rights violations, the Commission is willing to pursue arcane, mythical or even completely lawful activities as human rights violations.
Ironically, or perhaps crucially, the Commission includes member governments who are the poster children for human rights abuse. Apparently it???s an open secret that the best place for serial human rights abusers to hide in plain sight is on the commission. Some of these governments likely have concluded that systemic rights abuses may be a requirement for membership.
According to the watchdog group, UN Watch ??? which evaluates the governments that seek to join the commission ??? six countries which were deemed ???not qualified??? or human rights abusers based on their domestic human rights record were easily elected to the Commission in 2014 including China, Russia Algeria, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. And tellingly, Freedom House another watchdog reports that only twice since 2006 has the commission even elected a majority of members who???s countries were ranked as free.
Is the record of the Commission up to this point really a surprise?
Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and was the former Chief of Staff and Deputy Director of the Voice of America from 2001-2003.