June 16, 2005 | Commentary on Religion and Civil Society, Civil Society

End the UN's Human Rights Hypocrisy

No institution offers more dreary evidence of a United Nations in crisis than its Commission on Human Rights. Each year delegates from 53 member states meet to name the worst offending countries and pass resolutions condemning their abuses. Instead, the Commission has become a sanctuary for rogue regimes eager to divert attention from their repressive policies.

The emperor has no clothes, but UN leaders simply avert their eyes.

The United Nations prides itself on its ethos of universalism: It is a body with no standards for membership-and no penalties for betraying its highest ideals. It gives equal voice to dictatorships and democracies.

So brutish states such as China, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and even Sudan (widely accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide) serve as members in good standing on the Human Rights Commission. Shashi Tharoor, UN undersecretary-general for communications, defends this bizarre exercise in political correctness. "You don't advance human rights," he argues, "by preaching only to the converted."

Tragedies like Sudan prove just the opposite. You don't advance the cause of human rights by allowing the unconverted to manipulate organizations established to defend that cause.

The Congressional Task Force agrees that it's time to abolish the UN Commission on Human Rights. I think it should be replaced by an alliance of human rights organizations-drawn from the world's democracies-that work mostly outside of the UN system. The United States should take the lead and establish a new US Commission on Human Rights with its own ambassador. He would mobilize a "Democracy Caucus," a coalition of the willing, to help protect and expand democratic freedoms.

No one claims that democracies are without deep injustices. But democracies confess and confront their sins, from racism to prison scandals. Dictatorships survive by nationalizing them, be they gulags or mass graves. Morally serious people can tell the difference.

Let's agree, finally, to confine the task of promoting human rights to them.

Mr. Loconte is a research fellow in religionĀ at the Heritage Foundation and editor of "The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm" (Rowman & Littlefield). He served as a member of the Congressional Task Force on the United Nations.

About the Author

Joseph Loconte William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society

First aired on National Public Radio