May 21, 2008 | Commentary on Democracy and Human Rights

We're under investigation -- by the U.N.

While hundreds of thousands are dying due to the callous indifference of the military junta in Burma and millions are fleeing oppression and hunger in Robert Mugabe's brutal Zimbabwe, the U.N.'s farcical Human Rights Council (HRC) is focusing its attention elsewhere -- the United States, the freest nation on the face of the earth. This week sees the arrival on U.S. soil of Doudou Diene, the U.N. special rapporteur charged with investigating "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" in America. Diene, a French-educated lawyer from Senegal, will spend three weeks touring the country, from Washington and New York to Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

He will compile a lengthy report to be published next year, but which will no doubt have more leaks than a French aircraft carrier in the first Gulf War. It is hard not to conclude that the U.N. is up to mischief in commissioning a major investigation during a presidential-election year. The United Nations has a habit of interfering in U.S. elections, as it showed in 2004, when the New York Times published an "October surprise" a week ahead of the election revealing that 380 tons of powerful explosives had gone missing from the al-Qaqaa former military complex in Baghdad. The article, which sparked a political storm, was based on information which was likely leaked by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headed by Mohammed El Baradei, and which prompted Senator John Kerry to accuse President Bush of "incredible incompetence" in his handling of security in Iraq.

Doudou Diene has a track record of focusing his attention on freedom-loving democratic societies, with damning reports on alleged institutionalized racism in countries such as Japan, Canada, Denmark, and Switzerland. His reports are highly controversial and are usually rejected out of hand by the Western governments he is targeting. Like most other U.N. "Special Rapporteurs" Diene is unaccountable as well as unqualified for the position he holds. The United Nations doesn't even bother to post his biography online, though his career details can be found on the website of the Organization of American States. His entire career has been spent as a U.N. bureaucrat, with absolutely no real world experience. Even by the dismally low standards of the United Nations, Diene is a spectacular non-entity.

With the rare exception of Russia, Diene has chosen to ignore real human-rights violations in most dictatorial states, especially in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East. He has barely said a word about Chinese oppression in Tibet for example, and has been largely silent about the genocide in Darfur. Nor has he ever condemned the rampant anti-Semitism which runs deep through the Human Rights Council.

The Council includes some of the world's worst human-rights violators, such as China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and is even worse than the old U.N. Commission on Human Rights, an institution that had sunk to such depths that even then-secretary-general Kofi Annan mustered the courage to call it a disgrace. It has just appointed as investigators Richard Falk (special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories), a Princeton emeritus professor who compares Israel to Nazi Germany and defends Ward Churchill, and Jean Ziegler (special rapporteur on the Right to Food), co-founder of the intriguingly named "Muammar Gaddafi Human Rights Prize." Needless to say, around three quarters of the Council's resolutions involve the condemnation of Israel.

The Bush administration has wisely decided to boycott the HRC, but it is impossible to prevent U.S. funds from flowing to it through the U.N.'s general budget. At a price tag of more than $5 billion a year, the American taxpayer doesn't get a great deal of value from the United Nations as a whole, a bloated world body that devotes much of its energy to shielding dictatorial regimes, constraining U.S. power, and bullying the Israelis. Despite the United States contributing 22 percent of the U.N.'s budget, its myriad organs continue to delight in throwing mud at the world's only superpower, maintaining a steady flow of anti-American enmity.

Diene's visit to the United States will be merely the latest episode in the pathetic recent history of the United Nations, a supranational institution that continues its relentless and probably terminal decline. When it is eventually published, the U.S, should reject what will certainly be a preposterous anti-American polemic, and call on the United Nations to live up to its own Universal Declaration of Human Rights, instead of lecturing free societies on how to manage their own affairs.

It is hard to take the U.N. seriously when its peacekeepers are actively engaged in raping refugees in the Congo and even arming rebel groups, or when it turns a blind eye to the man-made starvation of millions in southern Africa. In the arena of human rights, the United Nations has become an emperor with no clothes, a morally bankrupt institution that wallows in its double standards and appeasement of evil. Doudou Diene's investigation of the United States should be seen for what it is: a desperate piece of political theater that underscores the U.N.'s growing irrelevance.


Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the
Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

First appeared in National Review Online