NGOs Continue to Overlook Problematic Nature and Biases of HRC

Jerusalem – As the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) begins its review process in Geneva, NGO Monitor calls on international human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to hold the Council responsible for its failure to properly protect universal human rights.

The HRC was established in March 2006 (resolution 60/251) after the Human Rights Commission was deemed ineffective due to its failure to address human rights abuses and obsessive focus on Israel. At that time, the UN General Assembly decided that the Council would review its work and functioning five years after it has come into existence. That review process currently is underway, but unfortunately, little has changed.

“The most powerful NGOs are offering critiques of the HRC as the review process begins, but there are some glaring omissions and inconsistencies regarding the countries and issues they address,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.  “Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on the HRC that does not condemn the fact that China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are on the Council and repeatedly overlooks widespread and systematic abuses in those countries.  For an organization claiming to uphold universal human rights, such bias is particularly unacceptable.”

A joint NGO proposal regarding the HRC review, signed by HRW, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Amnesty International, encourages transparency and a “shift away from selectivity.”  However, the proposal fails to mention the HRC’s constant focus on Israel, at the expense of addressing human rights abuses around the world.

In addition, HRW and FIDH serve as leaders of the NGOs for an Effective Human Rights Council, which has a wide NGO membership.  That coalition has expressed concern over countries with poor human rights records gaining admission to the council.  The group highlights Angola, Thailand, and Uganda, which are HRC members but have failed to live up to the “highest standards” of human rights.  However, both as a leader of this coalition, and through its own report Curing the Selectivity Syndrome, HRW appears to have a conflict of interest.

“Last year, HRW went to Saudi Arabia to seek funding by selling its role in the anti-Israel bias of the HRC, and the claim to counter ‘pro-Israel pressure groups,’” Steinberg continues.  “Aside from the obvious hypocrisy of HRW fundraising in Saudi Arabia, this activity clearly has had a tangible impact on HRW’s claim of objective analysis of human rights developments in general, and on the HRC in particular. Any credible report on the HRC must condemn the fact that some of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers are members of the Council. Many NGOs use moral rhetoric, but are concerned only with their own political agendas.”

NGO Monitor also notes that Israel is the only country that appears as a permanent agenda item for the HRC. HRW consistently fails to condemn this moral failure.

“Israel again is held to a double standard by both the Council and the NGOs that lead de-legitimization campaigns against Israel,” Steinberg adds. “This obsession continues to distract from real human rights abuses throughout the world and is indicative of larger problems with NGOs and their activities.”

In December, NGO Monitor will release an updated version of its “Lawfare” monograph, which details European funding for NGOs to be used specifically for strategizing “war crimes” cases against Israeli officials.  Courts throughout the world have been exploited by the NGO activities.

“If the European countries would stop funding these NGOs, these international venues might become real vehicles for protecting human rights.  Instead, they push their own agendas and the goal of universal human rights falls by the wayside,” Steinberg adds.