March 22, 2006

UN orders discredited rights commission shut down

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations on Wednesday
sealed the fate of its discredited Human Rights Commission,
ordering it to be shut down in three months and replaced by a
new U.N. Human Rights Council.

A resolution approved without a formal vote by the
54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council abolished the
Geneva-based rights commission as of June 16. The commission
was first created in February 1946.

The replacement rights council was established by the
191-nation U.N. General Assembly just last week.

The vote to create it was 170-4 with three abstentions. The
United States and close allies Israel, the Marshall Islands and
Palau voted "no" while Belarus, Iran and Venezuela abstained.

The 53-nation rights commission had come under fire from
Western democracies, human rights groups and U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan after a number of rights-abusing
nations won seats and began working as a bloc to protect one
another from criticism.

Membership on the commission was decided by the Economic
and Social Council, and most candidates were put forward by
regional groupings and ran without opposition.

President George W. Bush's administration lobbied hard for
strong barriers to membership by rights abusers on the new
47-nation council, but in the end decided those barriers were
not tough enough.

Many developing nations were critical of the plan for a new
rights council, saying Western powers merely wanted to target
poor countries and would protect their friends.