Let Us Now Thank Sudan
by CLAUDIA ROSETT
August 14, 2012
Sudan's regime is not, as a rule, a venture that inspires thank you notes. Sudan is a sinkhole of repression, violence and even slavery. Its president, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide. Its security forces are notorious for arbitrary arrests, rape and torture, which, as the U.S. State Department notes, they usually commit with impunity. And, courtesy of Amnesty International, you can read here about the case of 23-year-old Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul, who just last month, convicted in Sudan of adultery, was sentenced to be stoned to death.
Now, as UN Watch notes, "It's Official: Genocidal Sudan Running Uncontested for U.N. Human Rights Council Seat." Word of this, first reported by UN Watch, had been circulating for weeks. The UN General Assembly, which oversees the Human Rights Council, and votes on who fills these seats, had coyly refrained until this past week from posting Sudan's candidacy on the web site for the Human Rights Council elections. But here it is, the official site, where Sudan now shows up as one of five African nations running for five seats allotted in this election to Africa. In other words, Sudan's run is uncontested. Unless competition materializes before the election takes place this November, it's highly likely that Sudan will win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.
That's an outrage, rightly condemned as such. It's an abomination that the government of Sudan might be seated on any council presumed to be associated with human rights.
It's also how the UN system works. This is the default mode. Never mind such distractions as genuine human rights. At the UN, tyrannies and democracies all enjoy equal rights - to votes in the General Assembly, and seats and posts within the UN empire of commissions, councils, programs, funds and organizations. The old UN Commission on Human Rights was "reformed" in 2006 precisely because it had utterly discredited itself - devoting most of its energies to the anti-Semitic exercise of condemning democratic Israel, while serving as a nest for some of the world's worst regimes - including Sudan. Here we go again.
That said, let us pause for a moment to consider that in one small way, Sudan, now looking like a shoe-in for the "reformed" Human Rights Council, is doing us all a favor. It is providing a certain amount of truth in advertising, about both the Human Rights Council, and the larger UN system that not only tolerates such monstrous farce, but protects and sustains it.
The UN is chronically a font of similar outrages. But it also a system so secretive, elaborate, geographically dispersed and veiled in eye-glazing jargon and procedure, that many of the horrors slide much too easily down the Memory Hole. Sure, there have been monumental multi-billion dollar corruption scandals, ranging from Oil-for-Food to procurement kickbacks; there's the continuing problem of peacekeeper rape; there are the climate-change swindles, the grabs to control the internet, the UNESCO romance with dictators. Iran gets a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and bags the slot of rapporteur for the UN Committee on Information. The UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has recently been caught trying to provide dual-use hi-tch equipment to North Korea and computers to Iran. The list goes on and on.
All these cases matter, and some of them matter a very great deal - affecting national security interests, and the basic integrity of any civilized international order. But many of these scandals are complex, and often muddied by UN investigations which themselves turn into cover-ups. For the average U.S. taxpayer, whose money helps bankroll this scene, it's simply hard to keep track. There may well be a general sense that something is rotten at the UN. But who has time to sift through, absorb and recall the details?
Unto the breach comes Sudan, running uncontested for a seat on the Human Rights Council. That's a no-brainer. Memorable. Easy to sum up. It's the UN in a nutshell. So, for one perverse moment, let us now thank Sudan, for this clarifying campaign. Of course, the current U.S. administration, in stooping in 2009 to join the Human Rights Council, did explain that such engagement would help clean up the Council. And if anyone in Washington should yet come up with a way to block Sudan's bid for a seat, it would be unseemly to object.
Claudia Rosett is a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.