Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cuba Wins Seat on UN Human Rights Council

The votes were just tallied at the innagural election of the new Human Rights Council. Cuba has triumphantly won 135 of 191 votes - enough to win a seat on the newly adopted Human Rights Council.

The State Department had this to say about the vote: "There are some members in our view that don't share a genuine commitment to human rights." Silverberg mentioned only Cuba as a nation the U.S. opposed for membership, even as the Bush administration is locked in a dispute with Iran over its possible nuclear-weapon ambitions. We expected no words about Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Azerbaijan, but to mention Cuba over IRAN???

Curiously, Venezuela did not win a seat. One might suspect the US, who bowed out of the voting rather than be embarressingly voted down, had something do do with this result. I can envision US diplomats strategizing that focussing their intense behind the scense lobbying efforts against Venezuela (rather than Cuba) would garner more benefits. It would allow the US to continue its crying about the legitimacy of the UN (with Cuba on board), while also preventing a powerful regional foe from excercising its vocal criticisms of the US.

Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth really exposed himself in his post-election comments: "The good news is that two of the least deserving governments were not elected, Venezuela and Iran." HRW staff may wonder where the Venezuela snipe came from - as they did not mention it in their previous press forays.

This follows pre-election comments on Cuba, where Roth called Cuba "A forceful defender of rights abusers and an outspoken critic of the United States... Unfortunately, this attracts the support of a number of countries." Such a trite statement lays bare the blatant biases of this group. In one swoop, HRW dismisses valid criticism of the Unites States' rights record (according to its own reports) as unfortunate - and dismisses the vital work Cuba has done in trying to investigate abuses in Iraq and secret prisons worldwide (they lament only 5 countries voted to investigate Guantanamo last year - praising South Africa and ignoring Cuba's role). It is also patently false to claim that the 135 countries that voted for Cuba did so because Cuba protects them.

Lets remember the human rights community (HRW and Amnesty) also lambastes China and Russia. How out of touch are these groups, when they cite the 2 countries who received the highest # of votes in their respective regions? Have they forgotten or just don't care aobut China's role in lifting more people out of destitution and hunger than any country in history? Can they not read the writing - that many people and countries TRUST our rivals more than the US.

Lets hope this Human Rights Council does its job and treats human rights in their totality, placing social and cultural rights alongside political and economic rights. Lets hope the US press (we know the US Govt. won't) spends as much time criticizing the farse of Saudi Arabia being elected - a country who denies basic rights to half its population - as Cuba and China. And will at least one media outlet tell the American people the truth about why we abstained from putting ourselves up for election?


Blogger jsb said...

Matt will spin this, but I hope readers will at least consider the following:


11:35 AM  
Anonymous wom said...

I like the fact Saudi Arabia was elected. It has a country that has made great leaps in the human rights area of society. The Government has raised raised awareness on physical abuse in general through targeted campaigns. It has also initiated organizations to aid in that effort.

There's some horrible bias in the global media these days and people are just not getting the full story.

4:32 PM  

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