The U.N. Keeps Its Eye on the Ball

The United Nations’ Committee on Torture has called on the United States to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The panel said the U.S. should “cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close this detention facility, permit access by the detainees to the judicial process or release them as soon as possible.”

The U.N. also criticized the practice of sending detainees to countries where torture is practiced, even where those countries have given assurances that terrorists will not be mistreated. Which raises a couple of questions: first, if the U.N. is concerned about the U.S. sending terror suspects to countries like Egypt, Jordan, etc., because their human rights record is so bad, what, if anything, has the U.N. tried to do about it? Has the U.N. taken any meaningful action against those countries, or is it only concerned about mistreatment of prisoners when it can be used as an opportunity to bash the United States?

Second, given that a large proportion of the Guantanamo prisoners come from the very countries the U.N. criticizes us for sending prisoners to, how exactly are we supposed to release them? A few weeks ago, there was publicity about a couple of Chinese prisoners at Guantanamo who were determined to be “innocent” in the sense that they had attended al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan for the purpose of carrying out terrorist acts not against the U.S., but against China. The administration would have been happy to release the two men, but for obvious reasons they didn’t want to go to China, and we didn’t want to admit them to the U.S. The problem was finally solved when a third party agreed to take them.

This problem would be far more substantial if we were to accede to the U.N.’s demand that all of the Middle Eastern prisoners at Guantanamo be released:

Military officials have said that they are trying to release many of the roughly 490 detainees now being held in Guantanamo. They say that the effort has been slowed, however, by the difficulty in arranging for clear assurances that they will not be abused when they are returned to their country of origin — in many cases, Saudi Arabia or Yemen.

The U.N., of course, isn’t doing anything to help solve that problem. Once again, one wonders whether this whole issue means anything to the U.N. other than an opportunity to foment anti-Americanism.

Meanwhile, real human rights abuses continue around the globe, with little notice from the U.N., and no effective action. The most recent is this chilling report from Iran:

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country’s Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

“This is reminiscent of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis.”

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical “standard Islamic garments.”

Iran’s roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

Bernie Farber, the chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he was “stunned” by the measure. “We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again,” he said. “It’s state-sponsored religious discrimination.”

Ali Behroozian, an Iranian exile living in Toronto, said the law could come into force as early as next year.

Mr. Behroozian said it will make life even more difficult for Iran’s small pockets of Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities — the country is overwhelmingly Shi’ite Muslim. “They have all been persecuted for a while, but these new dress rules are going to make things worse for them,” he said.

The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. “This is nothing to do with anything here,” said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani. “We are not here to answer such questions.”

As the Iranian crisis deepens, is anyone looking to the U.N. for a solution? I hope not.


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