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The United Nations high commissioner for human rights took the occasion of Human Rights Day to scold the United States for its conduct of the war on terror, instead of focusing on such enlightened nations as Syria, Myanmar, Zimbabwe -- and Turtle Bay itself. Louise Arbour's focus on the US resulted in a slap back from John Bolton, who warned the UN that the lack of credibility demonstrated by such actions would damage efforts to reform the UN:
Louise Arbour, the high commissioner for human rights at the United Nations, presented the most forceful criticism to date of U.S. detention policies by a senior U.N. official, asserting that holding suspects incommunicado in itself amounts to torture. ...
She also expressed concern in a news conference with efforts by some U.S. policymakers to exempt CIA interrogators from elements of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Vice President Cheney's office has sought to block efforts by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other lawmakers to subject CIA personnel from the 1984 convention's ban on the use of cruel or degrading treatment of detainees. ...
John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, criticized Arbour, calling it "inappropriate" for her to choose a Human Rights Day celebration to criticize the United States instead of such rights abusers as Burma, Cuba and Zimbabwe. He also warned that it would undercut his efforts to negotiate formation of a new human rights council that would exclude countries with bad rights records.
"Today is Human Rights Day. It would be appropriate, I think, for the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights to talk about the serious human rights problems that exist in the world today," Bolton told reporters. "It is disappointing that she has chosen to talk about press commentary about alleged American conduct. I think the secretary of state has fully and completely addressed the substance of the allegations, so I won't go back into that again other than to reaffirm that the United States does not engage in torture."
He added: "I think it is inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in in the war on terror, with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers."
Eighteen months after reporters and investigators began finding evidence of exploitation of refugees in almost every camp run by the UN, Arbour makes an odd choice by attacking the United States. UN-run refugee camps have turned into seraglios for UN staffers, with women and even little girls forced to give sexual favors to staffers and peackeepers alike in order to get food and medicine. It routinely selects countries like Libya and Cuba to sit on and lead its committees on Human Rights, akin to putting the inmates in charge of the asylum. In some sick and twisted way, it makes sense for Arbour to use the occasion of Human Rights Day to attack America rather than focus on all the ways the UN has promoted and allowed human-rights abuses over the past decade or more.
Bolton has it right. This demonstrates the lack of serious thought for reform at the UN. Arbour should have spoken out of humility about the UN's proven track record of abusing those under its protection and what the organization intended to do to correct it. The fact that Turtle Bay instead expanded the accepted definitions of torture to find a way to criticize us rather than clean up their own house shows that we need to issue ultimatums for reform now. No more money for UN operations of any kind should get paid until those responsible for corruption, graft, and abuse of refugees resign or get fired, from Kofi Annan all the way down to the lowliest staffers in Liberian, Congolese, Balkan, and other refugee camps who forced little girls to turn tricks or starve.
Once the UN does that and starts using occasions like Human Rights Day to hold real bloodthirsty nutcases like Robert Mugabe accountable, then we can start taking the UN seriously again. As it is, Arbour only confirms that the UN has become a useless joke with no more credibility than the Mugabes it protects and emulates.Sphere It View blog reactions
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