IN OTHER WORDS: Culling foxes

Last week’s election of 47 members of the UN’s new Human Rights Council cannot be considered an unqualified success. As with the old UN Human Rights Commission, some of the foxes have won the privilege of guarding the hen house.

Among the rights abusers on the old commission that declined to seek a place on the new council were Sudan, Zimbabwe, Libya, Congo, Syria, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Two regimes that sought seats on the council but failed to receive enough votes were Iran and Venezuela. Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, and Cuba did win places on the council. Since the US delegation wanted the five permanent Security Council members to be represented on the UN’s human-rights body, no formula was considered that might have kept Russia and China off the council.

The underlying problem for a UN body to protect human rights is something inherent in the council’s electorate. Most nation-states are reluctant to condemn other governments. The most energetic exceptions are the governments of Central Europe and Latin America, whose leaders remember the plight of prisoners of conscience in dictatorships.

The US should join with the new democracies to make sure the council members fulfil their commitments to protect citizens against states violating their human rights.