International Law

Should Sudan Join the U.N. Human Rights Council?

If former Liberian President Charles Taylor, now convicted and sentenced for war crimes, had retained power, would the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) offer his regime membership? Would the mass murder, torture, and use of child soldiers be ignored so that Liberia could weigh in on human rights issues?

Although these questions may seem academic in nature given Mr. Taylor's current incarceration for his crimes, the consideration of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's regime for UNHRC membership raises the same issues. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for President al-Bashir "for war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Some may contend that to deprive Sudan a seat at the UNHRC table would discourage the promotion of human rights within that country. Yet to grant President al-Bashir's government human rights council membership provides legitimacy to a regime that does not deserve it while ignoring the human rights abuses committed under the guise of the rule of law.

The UNHRC was justifiably criticized when it permitted Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi's government to participate and even chair the council because those governments committed to violating human rights cannot credibly promote the cause on the world stage. Indeed, their participation mocks the UNHRC's existence, detracting from the council's legitimacy on human rights issues.

The solution to this problem is simple. The current human-rights violating regime per se should not be recognized by the UNHRC and should not be permitted to choose a delegate, considering that the president is a wanted criminal. If Sudan is to be granted a seat at the UNHRC table, that seat should be held by a Sudanese representative who is both committed to human rights and opposed to President al-Bashir's anti-human rights regime.

Surely the human rights council can find a qualified Sudanese refugee among the surviving victims of the atrocities committed by the current Sudanese government whether from the area of South Sudan before independence, from Darfur, or from Khartoum or Sudan proper, such as a political opposition leader, who can speak on behalf of human rights issues for the nation.  For example, one of the "Lost Boys," who experienced some of the worst that the al-Bashir regime and its thugs have to offer, and who have had to opportunity to obtain an education, and to see what respect for human rights in a democracy means, would be a prime candidate for such post.

Recommended Reading

Candidates for Election to Human Rights Council, United Nations website

It's Official: Sudan's Al-Bashir Regime Running Uncontested for Seat on U.N.'s Human Rights Council, UN Watch (Aug. 7, 2012)

ICC issues a warrant of arrest for Omar Al Bashir, President of Sudan, ICC website (Apr. 3, 2009)

Sudan, Syria Could Join UN Human Rights Council, The Algemeiner (Aug. 13, 2012)