In Stephen Vincent Benét's story "The Devil and Daniel Webster," Satan called a jury of the damned composed of turncoats, traitors, and Blackbeard the Pirate, "with the stench of hell still upon them." At the United Nations Human Rights Council, accusations against the Dutch political leader Geert Wilders will be heard by Chinese and Russian lawyers who spent the 1970s and 1980s running the "human rights" entities of their respective countries, an Egyptian-educated diplomat from Morocco, and a "human rights" specialist from Cuba, according to the UNHRC website. The Cuban died last year, but in the spirit of Benét's story, he still might be serving on the UN working group hearing Mr. Wilders's case.
Last week, three Dutch Moroccans filed a complaint against their country's government with the UNHRC, an entity that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in 2007 accused of a "pathological obsession with Israel," echoing similar complaints by the United States, Canada and the European Union. Under the Bush administration the United States boycotted the Council, but President Obama sent American diplomats back to it. On Oct. 1, the State Department released a statement claiming that "U.S. engagement thus far has resulted in significant improvements to the Human Rights Council as a multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights. Accomplishments include groundbreaking resolutions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, preventing discrimination against women, LGBT human rights, (and) religious tolerance."
As leader of the Party for Freedom, Holland's third-largest political party, Wilders has fought to limit Muslim immigration to his country, and demanded a hard line against "street terror" by Muslims in European cities. The former parliamentary assistant to the leading Dutch conservative politician Fritz Bolkestein, Wilders is a traditional liberal and a strong supporter of Israel. In January 2009, Dutch prosecutors accused him of "hate speech" against Islam; he was acquitted of all charges in March 2011. Wilders lives under continuous threat of murder by Islamists; he is guarded at all times and sleeps in a different location every night.
The Dutch-Moroccan complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council claims that the Netherlands violated their human rights by failing to convict Wilders. Their complaint states:
Systematic incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims and other migrants has been committed over years – in different forms – by the Member of Parliament Geert Wilders. The complainants – who are Muslims and belong to the Dutch-Moroccan community in the Netherlands – feel discriminated against, humiliated and threatened by Mr. Wilders and the members and adherents of his party, resulting in discrimination and an increasingly negative attitude by considerable parts of the population. They are of the opinion that Mr. Wilders by his continued hate speech has poisoned the social climate in the Netherlands, that has become more and more anti-migrant and anti-Muslim.
The document contains no allegations about murder, torture, massacres, or imprisonment, the sort of human rights violations that routinely occur in countries that the Human Rights Council has specifically declined to consider, for example, Cuba and Belarus. The complainants state that their feelings were hurt.
Because "the District Court of Amsterdam acquitted Mr. Wilders…and subsequently dismissed the claims of the complainants," that is, followed due process, "no appeal is open to them" except to haul the Netherlands before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
This is made possible by a complaints procedure established by the U.N. General Assembly, which allows individuals to bring alleged human rights violations before the Council. Such complaints are referred to a "Working Group on Communications" composed of "independent experts." The members of the Working Group are listed on the UNHRC web site, and prove that a lifetime of promoting human rights abuses is no obstacle to a new career passing judgment on the human rights violations of others.
The Working Group members include one Vladimir Kartashkin, who was employed by the Moscow Institute of State and Law with brief interruptions between 1961 and 1992, that is, during a period when the KGB routine committed dissidents to psychiatric hospitals, and tortured and murdered political prisoners. Another member is Chen Shiqiu, the Vice-Chairman of the People's Republic of China Society for Human Rights Studies. His other affiliations show a special sort of attachment to human rights issues, including the China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture, and the China Family Planning Association -- that is, the entities responsible for erasing Tibetan culture and forcing Chinese mothers to abort prospective second children. Stephen Vincent Benét could not have made this sort of thing up.
Also listed on the Working Group for Communications is Alfonso Martinez, a Cuban diplomat who served as the spokesman for his Foreign Ministry between 1994 and 1997. "As an expert in Human Rights he represented the Government of Cuba in numerous meetings and conferences, mainly within the UN system," according to a Taino News dispatch last year. Dr. Martinez helped persuade the United Nations Human Rights Council to take Cuba off its agenda, to the consternation of Secretary General Moon. Dr. Martinez died in 2010, but under the circumstances, that may not disqualify him from serving on the Working Group that will decide whether the Netherlands violated human rights by acquitting Geert Wilders.
Messrs. Kartashkin and Shiqiu (and perhaps the late Dr. Martine) are joined in the Working Group by Halima Warzazi, a Moroccan diplomat educated at the University of Cairo. To her credit, Warzazi has directed United Nations studies on female genital mutilation. How she will respond to the hurt feelings of the Dutch-Moroccan complainants remains to be seen. Americans became aware of Morocco's pattern of human rights abuse when Malika Oufkir's book Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail became a best-seller in 2001.
If the complaint is taken seriously, the Obama administration will have to explain more clearly why it praises American participation in a forum which hires thugs with decades of service to some of the world's worst human rights violators, and empowers them to judge anyone who makes Muslims "feel discriminated against," as the complaint maintains. In theory, the UNHRC might refer the Netherlands for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, although it seems unlikely that matters might go that far. The Netherlands defending itself before Russian, Chinese, Cuban and Moroccan hacks is offensive enough.
David P. Goldman writes the Spengler column for Asia Times Online. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery in September 2011.