Editors’ Note: Frank Robinson attended the 17th World Humanist Conference in Washington D.C., jointly sponsored by the International Humanist & Ethical Union (IHEU) and The American Humanist Association (AHA), during the weekend of June 5-8, 2008. More information about the conference is still available here and here.Frank recorded, on his blog, commentary about various conference sessions/lectures that he had attended; his thoughtful descriptions deserved the attention of The Eloquent Atheist readership. Departing from his blog, we are including his expanded comments on particularly noteworthy performances, which might inform our readership of the current trends and issues that are prominent within the Humanist movement. Frank’s remarks will be published over several days. Enjoy, Michael and Marilyn
Roy Brown, past IHEU President, spoke on “The Myth of Human Rights at the UN.” The old UN Commission for Human Rights had fallen into disrepute since it had become captive to the worst offenders of human rights, and the only nation it ever saw fit to criticize was Israel. Reform efforts produced a new Human Rights Council; the intent was that only nations really sincere about human rights would get on it, but guess what? The disgraceful ones still rule the roost. It happens because the elections are in geographic subgroups. The ethic followed is, “I won’t criticize you if you don’t criticize me.”
Thus, in the view of the Islamic nations, human rights are properly governed by Sharia Law, in all its primeval glory. And with their votes these nations block any discussion of the matter.
The latest atrocity is that, in the wake of the Danish cartoon affair, the UN’s “Special Rapporteur” on freedom of expression has been instructed to report not on abridgements of freedom of expression but rather abuse of freedom of expression. (Read more about this matter)
Brown concluded that there is really no international consensus on human rights, and that what is needed is a human rights council outside the UN’s auspices, so that it can be limited to those nations with a genuine commitment to promote human rights.
In the question session, Brown was asked whether military intervention on behalf of human rights is ever justified, and if so, must it be under UN auspices? Given all he had just been saying, I thought the second question was somewhat amazing. More amazing still was his answer: yes to both.
I think perhaps minds have been muddled by the Iraq intervention and its having occurred without UN sanction – at least without totally explicit UN sanction. I would point to something else the US did, which was entirely without UN sanction: the 1999 Kosovo intervention. To me, that case makes it clear that the correct answer to the second question is a resounding “No!”