UN Elects New Human Rights Council

The sculpture of a twisted gun outside the United Nations headquarters in New York (AFP Filed Photo)

The UN General Assembly elected Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia to the new Human Rights Council created to replace its predecessor UN High Commission for  Human Rights.

The United States was among four countries that voted in March against the revamped council, on the grounds that it would be too easy for countries criticized to violate the human rights by the US to be elected.

Cuba, for its part, hailed its election to the Human Rights Council as a "resounding victory" for the country and a "defeat" for the United States.

"The United States failed in its goal of preventing Cuba from getting a seat in the most important panel specialized in human rights in the United Nations," Cuba's foreign ministry said in Havana.

The 191-member General Assembly, voting by secret ballot, also elected Russia and Tunisia to the new 47-member council. Countries needed at least 96 votes to win a slot.

UN chief Kofi Annan welcomed the new council's election and the high rate of participation.

"He believes that this demonstrates a widely shared commitment to replace the previous Commission on Human Rights with a body that can work more effectively, and can embody human rights ideals with more credibility," said Annan's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

The new body, which starts work on June 19, is required to review the rights records of its members in addition to other countries, Dujarric said.

"This will give its members the chance to show the depth of their commitment to promote human rights both at home and abroad," he said.

If a country violates human rights, its membership could be revoked with a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly.

Sixty-three countries were competing for the body's 47 seats -- six fewer than the previous UN human rights body. The United States did not run for a seat.

Human rights groups were disappointed that some countries with poor human rights records were selected, but still hoped the new council would be an improvement over the previous UN body.

The council will be based in Geneva, like its predecessor, and its seats are divided by regions, with eight for Latin America and the Caribbean, 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for eastern Europe and seven for western Europe and others, a grouping that includes the United States, Canada and  Israel.

Asia's seats were awarded to Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Sri Lanka.

The slots designated for western Europe and others were accorded to Britain, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The eastern European seats went to Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.

The African seats went to Algeria, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia.

The Latin American and Caribbean posts were granted to Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.


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