Opinio Juris does a great change detailing the disappointment surrounding the recently established Human Rights Council, which was established to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Council was established to combat the ineffectiveness of the previous Commission. Yet now, it seems to be plagued by the precise political biases which hurt both the General Assembly and Security Council in enacting comprehensive responses to human rights concerns. Specifically, the Council completely failed to recognize the significant human rights abuses committed in Iran in the past few years, particularly under the leadership of President Ahmadinejad. As Human Rights Watch correctly notes in their recent statement:
Twenty-five of the council’s 47 members favored ending scrutiny of both Uzbekistan and Iran. Among the 25 states are many that have consistently aimed to shield abusive governments from criticism. But in this case they were joined by virtually the entire Africa group, including Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, which had previously supported human rights protections. Surprisingly, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan and South Korea abstained on both votes. Mexico and Switzerland abstained on the decision to discontinue consideration of Iran, while voting to maintain consideration of Uzbekistan.
This is shocking, when one considers that in this month alone the Iranian government arrested 38 women’s rights defenders in Tehran for gathering in a peaceful protest in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in violation of both the Iranian Constitution and international human rights norms. In order to present itself as a legitimate mechanism for human rights, the Council, especially in these initial deliberations, cannot lose foresight of the fact that just like the ICC, its credibility is based fundamentally upon the perception that it acts without bias.
That being said though, I have to disagree with Elizabeth Cassidy on one point. There is nothing wrong with the Council criticizing Israel at this point, nor should the Council's singling out of Israel distract us or justify the fact that Israel is committing gross human rights violations. While the protection and promotion of human is universal, we cannot deny the fact that some states at at better safeguarded in their abuse of human rights then others. In particular, when countries in the developed work, particularly those with superior military and political strength, such as Israel and the US, trample human rights, it is difficult absent continuous recognition of those abuses to pressure for reform and changes. The fact is, Iran will be sanctioned by the international community both monetarily and politically. It will be deprived of economic trade and will be condemned not only by NGO's but also by the most powerful actors in the world. Israel, however, won't be and its not because they have a better human rights record or are acting in good faith with their international obligations. In summary, the criticism against the UN Council should not be for its selective accountability, per se, but rather its failure to address human rights everywhere rather than one place.