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Context of 'March 31, 2009: US to Join UN Human Rights Council'

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The Bush administration announces plans to spend $3 million on supporting “the advancement of democracy and human rights” in Iran. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor says it expects to award between three and 12 grants ranging from $250,000 to $1 million to educational institutions, humanitarian groups, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals. [US Department of State, 4/8/2005; Associated Press, 4/11/2005] Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, says the plan is “a clear violation” of the 1981 Algiers Accords which prohibits the US from intervening “directly or indirectly, politically or militarily in Iran’s internal affairs.” [Islamic Republic News Agency, 4/11/2005]

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Richard Falk.Richard Falk. [Source: Richard Lord / World Council of Churches]Days before being selected for a United Nations Human Rights Council post, retired international law professor Richard Falk says he wants an official commission to investigate the role neoconservatives may have played in the 9/11 attacks. [New York Sun, 4/9/2008] Falk is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. [London Times, 4/15/2008] In a radio interview, he says: “It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people.… All we can say is there is a lot of grounds for suspicion, there should be an official investigation of the sort the 9/11 Commission did not engage in and that the failure to do these things is cheating the American people and in some sense the people of the world of a greater confidence in what really happened than they presently possess.” Two days later, on March 26, Falk will be appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to a newly created position to report on human rights in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. [New York Sun, 4/9/2008] In 2004, he wrote the foreword to The New Pearl Harbor by David Ray Griffin, a book that put forward evidence that the Bush administration may have orchestrated the 9/11 attacks or deliberately allowed them to happen (see March 1, 2004). [Griffin, 2004, pp. vii-x; New York Sun, 4/9/2008] Falk also contributed a chapter to the book, co-edited by Griffin, 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out. [Griffin and Scott, 2006, pp. 117-127; London Times, 4/15/2008]

Entity Tags: Richard Falk

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

UN Human Rights Council logo.UN Human Rights Council logo. [Source: China Human Rights Net]The Obama administration announces that the US will seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The Bush administration had chosen not to participate in the council, saying that it would not countenance the influence of nations who repress their populations. “Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the UN human rights system.… We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.” Elections for three seats on the 47-member council will take place in May. The other countries on the ballot are Belgium and Norway. New Zealand agreed to withdraw from the ballot in favor of the US candidacy; New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, explained, “Frankly, by any objective measure, membership of the council by the US is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them.” A human rights advocate tells the Washington Post: “This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective. I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.” Human rights activists have pressured the US to join the council since its inception in March 2006. The council took the place of the UN’s Human Rights Commission, which lost credibility when it allowed nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe to join and thus thwart criticism of their treatment of their citizens. Bush officials had refused to join the new body, saying that they did not believe the new organization represented any improvement over its predecessor. Then-US ambassador to the UN John Bolton explained that the US would have more “leverage in terms of the performance of the new council” by not participating in it and thus signaling a rejection of “business as usual.” Bolton says of the Obama administration’s decision: “This is like getting on board the Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg. This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn’t deserve legitimacy.” Obama officials concede that the council has failed to do its job adequately, and focused too much on abuse allegations by Israel to the exclusion of allegations against nations such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice says: “Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the council to be balanced and credible.” The US intends to join the council “because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.” [Washington Post, 3/31/2009]

Entity Tags: United Nations Human Rights Council, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Hillary Clinton, Obama administration, Murray McCully, John R. Bolton, United Nations Human Rights Commission

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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