May 9, 2006

New UN rights council includes some rights abusers

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations elected 44 of
the initial 47 members of its new Human Rights Council in a
first round of voting on Tuesday, including five nations named
by rights groups as among the world's worst abusers.

Russia, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, identified
by New York-based Human Rights Watch as unworthy of membership
on the new U.N. body, were among those winning seats.

But two others on the group's list, Iran and Azerbaijan
failed to win membership in the initial round of voting.

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said it
was inevitable some rights foes would win seats but "the
important step is that we have made real progress" over the
discredited Human Rights Commission, shut down in March.

"It doesn't guarantee that the council will be a success,
but it is a step in the right direction," Roth said.

The United States, an outspoken critic of the old human
rights commission, voted against creating the council, arguing
barriers were still too low to keep rights abusers from winning
a seat. It then decided against seeking a seat this year.