In elections held on May 21, 2008 the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) increased its grip on the UN Human Rights Council. By electing Pakistan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso and Gabon, the OIC won an increased majority of seats in the African and the Asian regional groups taken together, which account for over half of the Council membership.
“The results will guarantee the Council will continue to use the mantra of human rights to undermine human rights protection and immunize human rights abusers. In its first two years, the domination of Islamic states has meant an attack on freedom of expression, an attempt to silence non-governmental organizations, and a pre-occupation on Israel to the exclusion of gross human rights violations the world over,” said Senior Editor of EYEontheUN, Anne Bayefsky.
Today’s elections also reduced the number of fully free democracies on the Council – already in the minority. Before today, 49% Council members were ranked fully free by Freedom House statistics, but the election of Bahrain, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Zambia, means that only 22 of 47 of Council members are now fully free democratic states. “Human rights abusers will therefore continue to dominate the UN’s primary human rights body,” says Bayefsky.
In 2006 the Council replaced the widely discredited UN Human Rights Commission. But its record now includes: holding four special sessions on Israel and seven regular sessions on human rights covering all 192 UN members, eliminating human rights investigations on Cuba and Belarus, terminating behind-closed-door consideration of Iranian human rights abuses, and severely curtailing the investigation into abuses of freedom of expression. Furthermore, 60% of all Council resolutions and decisions critical of human rights protection in a specific state have been directed at Israel alone, while only four other UN states have been criticized at all.
“Clearly, the United States has made the right decision to stay off the Council and to refuse to lend it the credibility it does not deserve,” says Bayefsky. “Congressional efforts to end U.S. funding for the Council are a move in the right direction.”