Commentary and Newsletters

Anne Bayefsky

State Department Fakes Tough Talk at UN Human Rights Council

Friday, June 22, 2012

A version of This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on PJ Media.

The Obama administration has fallen into an unfortunate habit in its desperation to burnish strong foreign policy credentials – claiming its representatives have made robust statements to an international audience that they haven't. On Monday this week it happened again. The State Department posted what was alleged to be a hard-nosed speech delivered by UN Human Rights Council Ambassador Eileen Donahoe in Geneva at the opening of the Council's latest session. Listening closely to what she actually said, the tough talk wasn't uttered.

Here is what the State Department claims Obama's Ambassador said, but didn't:

    The United States demands an end to the Assad regime's outrageous crimes against the people of Syria. Those who committed these atrocities must be identified and held accountable.

Here are more words from her purported "speech" that Donahoe failed to mouth:
    Some believe that the Human Rights Council should not address country-specific situations. We disagree. The credibility of the UN's human rights machinery depends on its capacity to address urgent and persistent human rights situations where and when they emerge; to make a difference in the lives of the people who suffer under oppressive governments; and to protect those around the world who work to advance the cause of human rights.

This isn't the first time that the Obama administration record has been doctored.

In September 2010, two months after a series of systematic mass rapes began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there was an informal meeting on the subject over a Human Rights Council session lunch break. Very deliberately it was not a meeting of the Council itself, there was no advertisement in the UN bulletin, no webcast, no recording service, and no UN press release on the event. But the U.S. mission to Geneva issued a press release with the title: "United States Welcomes Engagement by Human Rights Council on Abuses in DRC." The press release included a large file photo of a full meeting in the Council chamber - though the "informal dialogue" had purposely not been scheduled in that chamber. The press release also quoted Ambassador Donahoe as saying: "Today's meeting demonstrated that the Council can react to events in real time." A few days later, Donahoe wrapped up the Council session with the praise: "I also recognize the forward movement made on other important human-rights issues this session. ... I welcome the council's engagement on the issue of the mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This showed the council's ability to react to real events in real time and to contribute its voice to this important issue." Not only was two months later not "real time," but the Council itself had not reacted at all.

Again in September 2010 the U.S. UN mission to Geneva gave UN officials a copy of a Donahoe "speech" to the Human Rights Council – that was duly posted on the UN website –containing a spirited defense of Israel. Israel was under attack for having prevented Turkish-backed thugs from breaking its lawful blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. But here are the words in the posted statement that Donahoe did not in fact deliver:
    In contrast to the unbalanced mechanisms adopted under this agenda item, Israel has been conducting its own process of credible investigations, and Israeli officials have been actively engaged in scrutinizing doctrinal issues. Israel has also established an independent public commission to examine the Israeli mechanism for investigating complaints and claims raised in relation to violations of the laws of armed conflict. This commission is headed by respected Israeli jurist Yaakov Turkel and includes two international observers: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lord David Trimble and former Canadian Judge Advocate General Kenneth Watkin. This commission, along with the ongoing inquiries and changes in combat doctrine demonstrate Israel's ability to conduct credible investigations and serious self-scrutiny, and we urge this Council to consider these factors as it deliberates.

Here's another. The Council continued its Turkish flotilla discussion in September 2010 and the State Department website claims that Donahoe delivered a speech in which she said: "We have received the lengthy report of the fact-finding mission. We are concerned by the report's unbalanced language, tone and conclusions." But what she actually said was: "On an initial reading, we are concerned by the report's unbalanced language, tone and conclusions."

And again. In June 2010 the State Department posted a hard-hitting speech supposedly delivered at the Human Rights Council on the subject of Iran by the Norwegian Ambassador on behalf of a group of countries including the United States. In point of fact, after being interrupted by fourteen separate points of order and a two-hour suspension of the meeting, the Ambassador carefully omitted the word 'Iran' three times from the original written text and cautiously sputtered: "We call on *the aforementioned government* to live up to the commitments it has undertaken ... and to fulfill its obligations. ... [We] wish to see an improvement in the human rights situation of individual people *in this country.*" Donahoe even acknowledged the walking back, telling Reuters that the statement "is intended as a show of solidarity with the human rights defenders, rather than a condemnation of the government" – but the alleged tough rebuke of Iran still graces the Obama administration website.

In short, team Obama has given new meaning to the caveat – which they don't bother to use – "Check Against Delivery."