Monday, March 27, 2006

Much Maligned Rights Commission Closes

Much-Maligned Rights Commission Closes
U.N. Human Rights Commission, Mocked for Including Libya, Cuba in the
Past, Ends 60-Year History
The Associated Press

GENEVA - The discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission held its last
meeting Monday before being replaced by a new body, ending a 60-year
history in which some of the world's worst offenders often used their
membership to protect one another from condemnation.

Peruvian Ambassador Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros, chairman of the 53-nation
commission, gaveled the final session to an end. The commission's work
will be taken up by a new U.N. Human Rights Council, which debuts in June.

The commission, which originally was inspired by the United States, came
to be discredited in recent years because some countries with terrible
human rights records such as Sudan, Libya, Zimbabwe and Cuba used their
membership to protect one another from condemnation.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said member states
should now seize the opportunity to improve the U.N.'s tarnished rights

"The first opportunity to breathe life into this new institution will
come with the elections of its first members," Arbour said. "This is a
vital opportunity for the United Nations to begin setting the standard
for its human rights work in the future."

The General Assembly voted earlier this month to replace the commission
with the new council, ignoring U.S. objections that not enough was done
to prevent abusive countries from becoming members.

"The commission will not be mourned by many who value human rights,"
U.S. Ambassador Kevin Moley told The Associated Press. "The good news is
the commission is over. The bad news is that what replaces it isn't much

The new 47-member Human Rights Council will hold its first meeting June
19 in Geneva. The U.N. General Assembly will vote on new members May 9.

"It is an opportunity not to be missed by candidates and the electorate
alike for it will visibly set the tone and the ethos of this new body,"
Arbour said.

The United States has yet to decide on whether it will seek election,
Moley said.

Associated Press reporter Bradley S. Klapper contributed to this report.

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