Contrary to all the promises of reform issued last year, the proposal released today by Council President Luis Alfonso de Alba targets Israel for permanent indictment under a special agenda item: "Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories," which includes "Human rights violations and implications of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other occupied Arab territories"; and "Right to self-determination of the Palestinian people." No other situation in the world is singled out -- not genocide in Sudan, not child slavery in China, nor the persecution of democracy dissidents in Egypt and elsewhere. Moreover, the council will entrench its one-sided investigative mandate of "Israeli violations of international law"the only one not subject to regular review after a set termby renewing it "until the end of the occupation."
At the same time, the proposal eliminates the experts charged with reporting on violations by Cuba and Belarus, despite the latest reports of massive violations by both regimes. As for the experts on other countries -- on Burundi, Cambodia, North Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Burma, Somalia and Sudan -- all of these may soon be eliminated, as threatened by the Council majority comprised of dictatorships and other Third World countries, under a gradual "review" process. Pending their fate, all experts will be subjected to a new "Code of Conduct," submitted by Algeria in the name of the African group, designed to intimidate and restrict the independence of the human rights experts.
The one positive innovation on the Council's horizon is the universal periodic review, which requires that all countries subject their human rights records to review. Except that this was already authorized by the General Assembly resolution that created the Council last year, whereas the package to be adopted tomorrow merely elaborates on the details. Regrettably, the proposed procedures are hardly encouraging. First, the review will occur only once every four years. So if a Tiananmen Square massacre occurs, the victims will need to wait up to four years for redress. Even then, the duration of the reviewfor China as for every other countryis limited to a mere 3 hours. If all of that were not enough, the process itself, the proposal takes pains to emphasize, is a "cooperative mechanism," with the very country reviewed "fully involved in the outcome." Translation: it's largely toothless.
The complete reform package is expected to be adopted by consensus tomorrowunless the governments of Canada and other Western democracies uphold principle by opposing the entrenchment of bias as a permanent feature of the new council.
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