Creates New Human Rights Council Despite US Opposition
By Peter Heinlein
15 March 2006
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The U.N. General
Assembly has ignored U.S. objections and voted overwhelmingly to create a new
Human Rights Council. The United States was one of four countries voting against
The vote of the
191-member General Assembly was nearly unanimous. Only Israel and two Pacific
island nations, Palau and the Marshall Islands, joined the United States in
opposition. Three countries Iran, Venezuela and Belarus -- abstained.
When Assembly President
Jan Eliasson announced the vote, the hall erupted in sustained applause. "The
result of the vote is as follows: in favor 170, opposed, four. Abstention three.
Draft resolution A/60/L48 is adopted."
The resolution creates a
Human Rights Council to replace the discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights,
which has had some of the world's most notorious rights abusers among its
Eliasson hailed the creation of the new Human Rights Council as an opportunity
for a fresh start. "Today, we stand ready to witness a new beginning for the
promotion and protection of human rights. By adopting this draft resolution, we
would establish a body which would be based on dialogue and cooperation, and
would be principled, effective and fair. A body whose members would uphold the
highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights," he said.
and the US delegation listen to applause from members of the UN General
After casting his "no"
vote, Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States is not
convinced that the Council would be any better than the Commission it will
replace."The U.S. believes we can and should do more. We had a historic
opportunity to create a primary human rights organization in the United Nations
poised to help those most in need, and offer a hand to governments to build what
the charter called 'fundamental freedoms.' We must not let history remember us
as the architects of a Council that was a 'compromise' and merely 'the best we
could do' rather than one that ensured doing 'all we could do' to promote human
rights," he said.
indicated the United States would work with the new Council, but did not
indicate whether Washington would seek membership in the body.
Jean-Marc de La Sabliere welcomed the near-consensus in the assembly, and said
he was encouraged that the United States appears willing to cooperate with the
new Council. "The U.S. has voted "no" and did not support the Council. But the
explanation of their vote by John Bolton showed that the U.S. is ready to
cooperate with the new institution," he said.
After Wednesday's vote,
several ambassadors admitted that their governments share many of the U.S.
concerns about the newly created council. Russia's U.N. Ambassador Andrey
Denisov said Moscow had put aside strong reservations to cast its "yes" vote."My
delegation has a taste of dissatisfaction with certain provisions of the
resolution, but the positive part prevails. We now have to work with new body,
and it is in our hands, and it depends on our efforts to make it more effective
than its predecessor," he said.
The United States and
many others wanted to exclude rights abusers by sharply reducing the size of the
Council and requiring candidates to win a two-thirds vote of the General
Assembly to win a seat on the Council. The compromise approved Wednesday creates
a 47-member body to replace the old 53-member Commission, and requires candidate
countries to win support of an absolute majority of the General Assembly, or 96
Even so, Britain's U.N.
Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry hailed the new body as a "substantial improvement"
over the current commission. "It will ensure an improvement in human rights on
the ground in the General Assembly, and it will do that by trying to work
cooperatively with countries. But where countries are in breach, or they
transgress human rights, we expect the council to be vigilant and take these
countries forward to stand scrutiny by the Council itself," he said.
U.S. Ambassador Bolton
told reporters afterward that he was 'disappointed' in the outcome, but not
surprised. He said he would have more to say Thursday when he goes to Capitol
Hill to testify before the House international Relations committee on the
progress of efforts to reform the U.N.
Voice of America