Extracts from report in The Economist:
"In its five years of life the United Nations Human Rights Council has been more pilloried than praised. The pious posturing of countries renowned for beastliness to their citizens incenses critics. So does the triumph of politics over humanitarian principle, the knee-jerk condemnation of Israel and a blind eye turned to most other countries’ abuses.
"Yet in this unpromising setting, some positive signs are visible.
"A report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch bestows rare praise on the council in its response to emergencies. In the year to June 2011 it launched international investigations in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria; it appointed an investigator to monitor developments in Iran; and it extended the mandates of rapporteurs for Myanmar, Cambodia, Somalia and Sudan.
"Much of the credit for all this goes to Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, along with Zambia and even tiny Maldives. The United States is newly engaged too, having returned to an active role in the council under the Obama administration.
"The question now is whether new members who joined the Council in September, which include India, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Peru, will play the same activist role as their predecessors. The early signs are not promising.
"In October one group [...] sought (so far unsuccessfully) to nobble the budget, and thus the independence, of the Office of the High Commissioner, Navi Pillay. The main instigators were Cuba, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, all of which strongly oppose an interventionist approach to human rights.
"Ms Pillay, a South African of Tamil extraction, had outraged the Sri Lankan government by calling for an independent investigation of alleged atrocities and war crimes by both sides in the war against the Tamil Tigers. The pro-government media there vilified her as a bullying, racist “Tamil Tigress”.
In the world of UN human rights, such insults may count as compliments."