Maybe Joining the UN Human Rights Council is Paying Off

by Julian Ku

Conservatives and human rights groups have rightly pummeled the new UN Human Rights Council as a deeply problematic institution, characterized by a strange obsession with Israel.  But the Obama Administration joined anyway, despite criticism, and they won a small payoff this week in Geneva.  The HRC finally got tough (well, at least they focused on) someone other than Israel.  The target on Monday? Iran.  The NYT reports:

Michael H. Posner, an assistant secretary of state, told the council that since disputed presidential elections in June, Iran had suppressed the protests of millions of Iranians, “often resorting to violence,” resulting in detentions, injuries and deaths. Mr. Posner, the top United States official for human rights, also condemned growing restrictions on freedom of expression and called for immediate action by Iran to end torture.

The benefit to the HRC going after Iran instead of the US alone going after Iran is obvious.   The downside of course is that the UN HRC won’t do much (it can’t), and it may well elect Iran to its membership next year.  But for the time being, this is a useful forum to convince third-parties (read: Canadian and European allies) that Iran deserves isolation and censure.  Unfortunately, I doubt it will make a difference to Russia and China. But it is a (small) achievement of the new Obama policy and deserves to be recognized as such.

2 Responses

  1. From a pragmatic point of view Mohammad Larijani’s quote in the NYT that
    Iran is “in full compliance with the relevant international commitments it has taken on in a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights”
    could raise one’s hope, taking into account that even Iranian officials feel compelled to use human rights language and seemingly embrace the concept.

    But at the same time we hear Mr. Larijani say:
    “The situation of human rights has been consistently used as a tool to apply pressure against us” by some Western governments.

    So is this incident giving us reasons to be optimistic about the future of the HRC? Is “the benefit to the HRC going after Iran instead of the US alone going after Iran” obvious? Will the HRC really take measures?

  2. Representatives of the United States and its closest allies are permitted to say that Iran violates human rights? That’s a “grand achievement”?

    “The benefit to the HRC going after Iran instead of the US alone going after Iran is obvious.”

    What benefit? I see none, obvious or otherwise.

    Besides, there’s nothing in that news report to indicated that the HRC has “gone after” Iran. It says the HRC let the US and its closest allies repeat what they’ve been saying for years. Well, whoop-de-do.

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