The U.N. Human Rights Council, like its predecessor, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, has long been a joke. (In fact, Wednesday’s New York Times noted, hilariously but perhaps unwittingly so, that “Libya, which led the commission in 2003 … had a history of abuses like assassinating government critics.”)

Comes now the news that the United States, which had disdained the organization in both its incarnations, is seeking a seat on the council. (See page 36.)

Is this to be commended or deplored? That’s our Web poll for this week – and we are leaning to vote “not sure.”

According to UN Watch, which is affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, in 2008, the council, among other dangerous absurdities, “overturned protection of freedom of expression by a revised mandate, sponsored by Islamic states with Cuban support, that now polices ‘the abuse’ of this freedom.” It also “eliminated human rights monitors in Belarus, Cuba, Liberia, Congo (DRC), and Darfur,” regions where such monitors are gravely needed.

Our own nation is in an almost clinical depression (a mental health term that might be applied to our economic crisis as well). Do we need to involve ourselves in the affairs of this wild bunch?

Maybe.

As Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, points out, “Whether we like it or not, … the council is a permanent forum whose resolutions, translated into every language, exercise global influence on hearts and minds…. Its mixed baggage still includes many bedrock principles embedded in positive institutions built up over time, which affirm and protect universal liberties like free speech and freedom of religion, and which need to be protected. With its proceedings now webcast, and with meetings held year-round instead of once a year, it’s a forum that grabs the world’s attention.”

And it often turns the world’s attention against Israel while, Neuer charges, “turning a blind eye to millions of human rights victims around the world.”

With the United States on the council, it might return to the principles behind its founding, the ones articulated in the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Readers, what do you think? Our poll can be found at jstandard.com.

RKB