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U.S. Bashing at the UN

Samara Greenberg

The United States faced public scrutiny of its human rights record at the United Nations for the first time Friday during an examination before the Geneva-based council as part of the “Universal Periodic Review,” a procedure that requires all UN member states to allow their counterparts to grade their conduct. The United States’ most outspoken critics – Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela – opened the session with scathing accounts of U.S. policies.

While Venezuela criticized the United States’ for torturing and executing detainees “arbitrarily” in “Guantanamo and secret detention centers around the world,” Iran’s delegation urged the U.S. to “halt serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law including covert external operations by the CIA carried out on pretext of combating terrorism.” This coming from a country that funds terrorists, stones women, and murders citizens who oppose the regime’s policies.

But that’s not all. Cuba called the U.S. embargo on its country an act of genocide, Indonesia said it should better promote religious tolerance, and Mexico complained of racial profiling. Even allies such as Britain and Australia condemned the United States’ use of the death penalty and called for an end to racial discrimination, especially in regard to migrants.

According to the UN Human Rights Council, its peer review process aims to “improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur” and is “designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.” However, in reality, the UN’s Universal Periodic Review is nothing more than a bash-fest, as all countries – even those with the worst human rights records – are provided a podium from which to openly criticize others, including one of the world’s foremost supporters of freedom.

Friday’s events should give Americans pause to question why the Obama administration joined the UN Human Rights Council in the first place. Indeed, when it comes to the UN, there are areas that U.S. involvement can help to make better and then there are those that are fundamentally broken. The UN’s Human Rights Council is broken and makes a mockery of human rights. It is not a venue where American participation can make a positive difference.