Friday, March 9, 2007

Outside objector

Our colleagues Rosa Brooks, in her Los Angeles Times column (a weekly must-read), and Peggy McGuinness, at Opinio Juris, have provided cogent critiques of this year's State Department survey of human rights in countries throughout the world. On releasing the report Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gestured to global criticism of the United States' post-9/11 human rights record: "We do not issue these reports because we think ourselves perfect, but rather because we know ourselves to be deeply imperfect, like all human beings and the endeavors that they make." Striving for "the inalienable rights of humankind and the principles of democracy" must continue, Rice said, even "here in America."
Less noted but of equal note: the U.S. decision again to shun membership on the United Nations' Human Rights Council, and so to continue its status of outside objector. The United States is right to complain of the year-old Council's excessive attention to the behavior of 1 state, Israel. But it is wrong to ignore the Council's accomplishments, among them adoption of the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (already signed by 57 countries; the United States, whose extraordinary rendition program is implicated, is not among them). And surely the United States is wrong not to immerse itself in the Council's activities. It should work on the inside on matters it believes deserve the world's attention, not hover on the outside looking in.

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