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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Precaution should be taken with next UN human rights commission

It should come as no surprise that an agency of the United Nations is inefficient, mismanaged and corrupt. What is news seems to be that the international body is taking action. The toll of scandal upon scandal, year after year finally convinced the United Nations to abolish the Commission on Human Rights.
Unfortunately, the commission’s proposed replacement appears to be the United Nation’s attempt to rename the entity without reforming it. If the United Nations fails to learn from its past mistakes, there is little doubt that it will doom endangered citizens to endure years under governments that don’t recognize basic human rights.
Simply put, the Commission on Human Rights failed because of its structure and its membership. Without correcting these two monumental errors, the new human rights organization will suffer a similar fate.
The 53 members of the commission met for six weeks every year to evaluate the protection of human rights around the world, according to the commission’s Web site. Given the atrocities that are committed on a daily basis by tyrannical governments, that is too many representatives spending too little time on the subject. Even if something of substance could be accomplished in six weeks, assuming that representatives from 53 countries would be able to agree in sufficient number to motivate action is reckless naivete at best.
Another fatal flaw for the commission was the lack of restrictions regarding membership. Because there was no emphasis placed on each member’s human rights record, rampant abusers like China, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Libya enjoyed all the benefits of membership after being elected by their respective regional neighbors. The fact that communist China has been murdering political and religious dissidents for more than five decades should preclude it from rendering any verdict on another country’s protection of human rights.
In its final days, the commission became a gathering place for the worst of the human rights violators as they used the agency to shield each other from investigation and international condemnation. This travesty was compounded by the fact that each member had the same voting strength. This meant that the credibility of the commission was not enhanced by the presence of countries that have a proven history of defending human rights, like the United States and Great Britain.
Any new organization is destined for a similar demise unless reforms are put in place. First, the body needs to remain in session all year to maintain the scrutiny of human rights violators. Second, the size needs to be greatly diminished if effectiveness is a goal. Limiting the number of members to 25 will increase the importance of being elected to the organization as well as increase the likelihood of reaching consensus.
But most importantly, human rights violators cannot share a table with human rights defenders because it grants some semblance of legitimacy to the oppressors. However, by ostracizing the worst abusers, even if immediate action cannot be taken, it will make a public stand that the representatives of the world’s countries take human rights seriously and will no longer permit the corrupting influence of regimes seeking to hide their atrocities.
While all people may be created equal, policies are not. Treating human rights abusers the same as human rights defenders only prolongs the misery that the victims must endure. If the United Nations is serious about protecting human rights, the new organization must be dramatically improved from the old one. Just changing the label won’t be good enough for the billions that live under repressive regimes.

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