Two days ago (Tuesday 10th December) marked International Human Rights Day which celebrated the 65thanniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The blogger sphere was abuzz, and businesses and work places took the opportunity to pursue their own social justice agendas.
Amnesty International, the most well-known global human rights movement, launched its own campaign. Its primary petition focused on ‘Nabi Saleh villages; occupied Palestinian Territories’. The booklet (brought to our attention by a community member) notes Israel’s human rights violations in this area of villages and urges the public to pressure Israel’s Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, “to stop using excessive and unnecessary force” against “non-violent demonstrators in Nabi Saleh.” It further states that Israel’s unwarranted use of tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition has resulted in two deaths and hundreds of injuries. This is presented in the absence of any wider context of conflict.
In an official capacity The United Nations Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year marks twenty years since the adoption by the World Conference on Human Rights of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. In supporting this declaration over 800 NGO’s, treat bodies and academics and Member States created the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
In his official message marking the 20th anniversary, UN Secretary- General, Ban Ki-Moon said;
“In OHCHR’s two decades of existence, five dedicated High Commissioners have spearheaded the work of the United Nations to further human rights globally. Through a wide range of norms and mechanisms, OHCHR advocates for victims, presses States to live up to their obligations, supports human rights experts and bodies, and — through presences in 61 countries — helps States to develop their human rights capacity.”
It is no secret that the UN’s track record on Israel is tainted. While I could write a thesis on this deeply ingrained anti-Israel sentiment, it’s probably more time efficient to read this full list on the history. In this context, it is unsurprising that Amnesty International chose to focus primarily on Israeli crimes against Palestinians to mark the UN’s landmark day.
However, a disturbing revelation by UN Watch reveals the UN’s global human rights agenda as nothing more than a farce laden with irony and hypocrisy.
UN-Watch obtained an official exam for applicants seeking employment within the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (the civil service for the 47-nation Human Right’s Council). Indeed, this Council is contentious in its own right. Countries with the highest rate of capital punishment (China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and USA) all sit on the Council, which is supposed to opposes such policies to the core. Go figure.
As part of this application process, applicants were required to complete a test that favours unchallenged support for Palestinian claims against Israel at the UN.
Let’s start from the beginning…
The test opens with a scenario. Three special rapporteurs on the right to housing, the right to water and sanitation and on the right to food have been “sending allegation letters to Israel raising concerns about the demolition of houses, water tanks and agricultural services in the West Bank.” The text states that NGO’s and UN officials are encouraging the representatives to issue a press release on their concerns.
Obviously, the text adds “at the same time, the Palestinian request for recognition of statehood is being discussed at the Security Council and General Assembly.”
It is important to emphasize from the outset that these “UN actors” urging them to issue a press release on the issue could be any players from the Human Rights Council including the murderous Bashar Al-Assad from Syria or Iran’s President Rouhani who last month sentenced four Christian men to 80 lashes each for drinking communion wine.
After the context and facts are established the applicants have certain tasks to complete.
First choose either a or b (700 words):
a) Draft a briefing note for the Chief of the Special Procedures Branch, who would like to advise the three mandate holders on the pros and cons of issuing such a press release and its timing.
b) Please draft speaking notes for one of the three mandate holders (your choice) to be used if a journalist wishes to follow up with a telephone interview.
The second compulsory assignment is to draft a concept note (substance, format, possible participants and audience, steps needed, etc.) for the organization of a side event on this topic, to be held during the presentation of special procedure reports to the General Assembly, which could be shared with States that may wish to sponsor such an event [maximum 1,500 words].
In his official message The UN Secretary said “In OHCHR’s two decades of existence, five dedicated High Commissioners have spearheaded the work of the United Nations to further human rights globally.”
What about Israel’s basic rights?
The exam clearly favours candidates who support the one-sided Palestinian account of Israeli criminality while ignoring human rights violations on the other side. While the process is grossly unfair from a job-application perspective, it also reveals a level of professional collaboration in the bias of the UN’s political groups that was not previously formally documented.
In response UN Watch’s, Hillel Neur, said;
“On numerous occasions, when UN Watch has complained to the UN about the actions of problematic investigators of the Human Rights Council, the response has been to disclaim and deny any responsibility for the so-called independent experts.”
“In reality, however, we now see that UN rapporteurs are sensitive to the demands of UN member states, and of NGOs; and that the professional staffers in Geneva, who are meant to be objective and neutral, are intricately involved in some of the anti-Israel machinations by the rapporteurs.”
When Neur pressed the UN about the test the response he received was that “the tests are of no importance per-se, but only for what they reveal about a particular candidate’s capabilities.”