Steinberg: Can Canada help fix the UN’s human rights disaster?

(Wikimedia Commons photo)

The violence and atrocities in Venezuela are further examples of how the world’s human rights frameworks have gone terribly wrong. Yes, many governments that claim to promote these universal values have condemned the actions of the Nicolas Maduro regime and given verbal support to his challenger, Juan Guaidó.

In Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland as well as Liberal and Conservative MPs have spoken clearly. But on the ground, Maduro’s thugs have grown more violent, withholding food, and beating up journalists.

In many ways, the international organizations that are, in theory, pledged to uphold the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights are among the main reasons for this failure. In March, the 47 member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), are scheduled to issue a series of reports, hold meetings, and vote on many resolutions. According to Geneva-based UN Watch, no reports will be published on Venezuela, in large part because the Council with its large staff and special rapporteurs, will be busy, as always, bashing Israel. No less than seven full-scale denunciations have been prepared by the anti-Israel council staff, using the language of international law and human rights without the substance.

In these meetings, what the UN calls a Commission of Inquiry is expected to condemn Israel for the violence that took place for the past year along the Gaza fence. By artificially and absurdly defining attacks staged by Hamas as civil unrest, rather than armed attacks protected by human shields, the UN and its NGO mouthpieces are again pressing the International Criminal Court to open cases against Israelis.

This is the same strategy they have tried repeatedly for 17 years, most notably in the infamous 2009 Goldstone report which also dealt with terror from Gaza, and was belatedly denounced by its author after he realized that information from the UN and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch was propaganda. These efforts to lead the International Criminal Court to add to the demonization by prosecuting Israelis failed, but the process keeps going.

In this situation, where the anti-Israel majority of the Council and its allies are fully mobilized, real human rights catastrophes such as Venezuela, Syria and Yemen are ignored. I have sat through numerous surreal UNHRC Israel-bashing sessions, and afterwards, have met with representatives of the victims of abuses around the world. Their plights are ignored because the human rights industry has been hijacked for this narrow agenda.


The upcoming session is expected to be particularly bad, including likely adoption of a blacklist of companies supposedly guilty of operating in the “Israeli-occupied West Bank.” Here again, the UN and influential NGOs such as Amnesty International, are singling out Israel and trying to weaponize international law to gain what 70 years of terror and war have failed to achieve for the Palestinians.

This UN endeavour is an extension of the ongoing BDS campaign, in the form of blackmail and threatening letters targeting the business community. For example, citing the facade of a UN resolution, the notorious Palestinian Al-Haq group published a bullying letter to the Canadian firm Bombardier into accepting their demands or face the “risk of aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).”

Canada has been a leading voice in condemning BDS warfare, including clear pronouncements from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Although not currently a member of the Human Rights Council, Canada’s leadership is vital in building a coalition of like-minded states  in Europe, Australia and New Zealand to link the funds they provide to the UN to the implementation of a new agenda. On their own, the existing actors will do nothing, and with words alone, the corrupt framework will not change. But if faced with a drastic loss of funds, this agency might be persuaded to switch from bashing Israel to real human rights crises, beginning with Venezuela.