The very nations that deny democratic rights to their people abuse the United Nations’ democratic forums to advance their interests. The largest of these groups comprises members from the 120-member-strong bloc known as the Non-Aligned Movement. Since 2012, the bloc has been chaired by Iran, which has used its position to bolster its allies and marginalize Israel.
In March, the United Nations closed the annual meeting of its Commission on the Status of Women by publishing a report that effectively singled out just one country for condemnation: Israel. The commission apparently had nothing to say about the Sudanese girls who are subjected to female genital mutilation. It also had nothing to say about the Iranian women who have been punished for crimes of “adultery” by stoning. These oversights may have something to do with the fact that both Iran and Sudan sit on the 45-member commission.
Then there is the United Nations Human Rights Council (the body that replaced the Commission on Human Rights in 2006). Its membership includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela — nations where you risk life and liberty if you express dissenting opinions. Yet these governments stand in judgment on the rest of us.
In 2007, Sudan chaired a committee overseeing human rights — even as its president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was being investigated for crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, for which the International Criminal Court later issued arrest warrants. Saudi Arabia — a regime notorious for public executions and floggings like that, most recently, of the blogger Raif Badawi — sits on the Human Rights Council, despite regularly receiving the worst possible ratings on civil liberties and political rights from the independent watchdog Freedom House.
In 2013, Iran was elected to the committee responsible for disarmament — even as it continued its nuclear expansion, support for terrorism and the destruction of Israel. Last year, an Iranian served as a vice chair of the General Assembly’s legal committee, an inexplicable choice given that Iranian citizens are routinely denied due process and fair trials.
Knowing this history, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that, in the 2014-15 session alone, the General Assembly adopted about 20 resolutions critical of Israel, while the human rights situations in Iran, Syria and North Korea merited just one condemnation apiece. Day after day, member states turn a blind eye to the most deplorable crimes.
Iran? Just one hostile resolution for a nation that, on average, executes citizens at a rate of two a day for “crimes” that include homosexuality, apostasy and the vague offense of being an “enemy of God.”
North Korea? Just one negative resolution even though it has imprisoned more than 200,000 citizens, throws children into forced labor camps and subjects its population to food shortages and famine as a result of government policies.
Syria? Again, just one resolution for a government that has pursued a war against its own people that has caused the deaths of at least 220,000 men, women and children — many by torture, starvation, chemical weapons and barrel bombs dropped on markets and schools.
Christians now number among the world’s most persecuted religious groups in Muslim countries, yet this human rights crisis is almost completely ignored by the United Nations. Instead, Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and an area in the region where the Christian population is actually growing, often seems to be the only nation the United Nations cares about.