Former U.N. General Assembly President – a Critic of the U.S. and Israel – Will Provide ‘Expertise’ to U.N. Human Rights Council

By Patrick Goodenough | June 18, 2010 | 5:07 AM EDT

General Assembly president Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann addresses a meeting marking the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” at the U.N. in New York on Nov. 24, 2008. (UN Photo by Devra Berkowitz)

( – Less than a year after he ended an often turbulent presidency of the U.N. General Assembly, a Nicaraguan leftist and arch-critic of the U.S. and Israel was set Friday to be appointed to the advisory committee of the U.N.’s top human rights agency.
Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann has been nominated by the Sandinista government to fill a vacancy on the Human Rights Council’s advisory committee, a body of 18 experts, which functions as the Geneva-based council’s think tank.
As the vacant position is one of three earmarked for Latin America and the Caribbean nations, and D’Escoto is the only nominated put forward by that regional group, known as GRULAC, his election by the 47-member council on the last day of its three-week midyear session is likely to be a formality.
The HRC states that the nomination process is meant “to ensure that the best possible expertise is made available to the Council.”
According to agreed-upon U.N. procedures, the post calls for “recognized competence and experience in the field of human rights; high moral standing; [and] independence and impartiality.”
D’Escoto’s year-long presidency of the General Assembly – which followed GRULAC’s unanimous endorsement and subsequent “election by acclamation” and ran until last September – was arguably the most polarizing in the organization’s history.
Though reminded more than once by U.S. diplomats that his role was to unify member states, not to side with some against others, he criticized Western countries, and particularly Israel, with relish, while praising leftist governments and defending controversial regimes from Iran to Sudan.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been unfairly “demonized” by the U.S., he said in the spring of 2009, while the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur was “racist.”

U.N. General Assembly president Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann presents a human rights award to left-wing activist and former U.S. attorney-general Ramsey Clark at the U.N. in New York on December 10, 2008, as Navanethem Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, looks on. (UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe)

D’Escoto’s tenure overlapped the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama one, and he criticized both.
He likened President Bush to Al Capone and spoke of “wars of aggression that kill hundreds of thousands of people with the purported aim of supporting democracy.”
When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office by the military acting with the support of parliament and the country’s courts, D’Escoto felt the U.S. did not go far enough in condemning the “coup.”
He remarked that, given the Honduran army’s “history of total submission to the United States,” observers were left wondering whether the removal of Zelaya was part of President Obama’s declared new policy towards Latin America.
D’Escoto on several occasions equated Israel with apartheid South Africa, accused it of “crucifying” Palestinians and called for sanctions and boycotts against the Jewish state.
By the time D’Escoto was halfway through his term, Heritage Foundation scholar Nile Gardiner said that he would surely win an award for the worst General Assembly president in history, describing him as “a massive embarrassment, even by the extraordinarily low standards of the U.N.”
As unpopular as he was with some Western governments, D’Escoto – who served as foreign minister in Nicaragua’s Sandinista government from 1979-1990 – was revered by others, and he was especially well received by leftist governments in Latin America.
After Cuba last September awarded him the Order of Solidarity, he was quoted by Havana’s mouthpiece Granma as saying he was grateful for having been a witness to the Cuban revolution and for having long known its leader, Fidel Castro, “who has always been a tremendous inspiration for me.”
U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization, urged U.N. member states, particularly the U.S. and European countries,  to “vocally oppose” D’Escoto’s nomination.
“His record of virulent anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Semitic politics, and his ardent support for extremist leaders such as Iranian President Ahmadinejad, have rendered him a notoriously divisive figure who falls afoul of this U.N. position’s criteria of independence and impartiality,” it said.
Another member of the HRC advisory committee is Jean Ziegler, a left-wing Swiss sociologist with a record of sympathizing with the Castro and Mugabe regimes and criticizing the U.S. and Israel.
He was elected onto the body in 2008 despite protests from U.S. and Canadian lawmakers, NGOs and a former Cuban political prisoner.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow