2 Minutes to Defend Tyranny's Victims

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
From the Hudson Institute's Anne Bayefsky in the Jerusalem Post:

What a Spectacle

At the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Iran's human rights record, the US's Posner spoke for a grand total of 2 minutes.

The Obama administration revealed a major plank of its Iran plan this week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. While Iranian dissidents are dying on the streets, locked up in torture chambers or corralled into show trials, the president is desperate to seem to be doing something. What better venue for keeping up appearances than the UN? Hence, during a concoction called the "universal periodic review" (UPR), Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner gave a speech on Monday critical of various Iranian abominations – for a grand total of two minutes.

The UPR process is touted as the centerpiece of the operations of the Human Rights Council, the UN's lead human rights body created over Bush administration objections in 2006. Posner did not use the occasion on the world stage to mention by name the American citizens now being held hostage in Iran or to demand their immediate release.

The whole UPR spectacle is structured so as to focus on one country for three hours once every four years. The country under consideration is allotted one of those precious three hours. In Iran's case, the delegation, headed by Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary general of the High Council of Human Rights, used the UN-provided opportunity to spend over an hour regaling the world about its glorious human rights record. The delegation included two women wearing heavy chadors who were permitted to exalt women's rights in Iran, and a Christian brought in to applaud the situation of non-Muslims.

In addition, 54 states raced through their two-minute remarks, having time to do little else than line up pro and anti the regime's behavior. The regime's apologists had the last word – which was actually met by a round of applause.

Western states managed to list a few problems, like a criminal code which advocates stoning. On the other side, the likes of Sudan, China, Cuba, Syria and Zimbabwe spoke about Iran's commitment to democracy. NGOs were not allowed to speak.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Following this pattern of impunity, yesterday the Burmese junta sentenced four democracy activists to prison terms with hard labor on the same day a U.N. envoy arrived to assess progress on human rights in the country.