India elected to UN Human Rights Council
May 18, 2007 - 10:39:06 AM

New York, May 18 - The UN General Assembly have elected India and 13 other new countries to the year-old Human Rights Council.Some of the new entrants have been criticized for poor records on human rights.

The 14 countries will serve for three years beginning on June 20 at the Geneva-based headquarters of the 47-member council.

Besides India, the countries gaining seat at the UNHRC are Angola, Bolivia, Egypt, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar, Slovenia, South Africa, Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Human rights groups had denounced the candidacies of Belarus, Egypt, Qatar and Angola. Belarus was the only country failing to get a place as the other three countries were elected with a large number of votes.

Belarus, which was also strongly opposed by the US, lost the election to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which entered the race just this week.

'We were particularly concerned about Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe,' US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters following the final vote and after Belarus was defeated.

'To have Bosnia-Herzegovina elected besides Slovenia, given the background of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was heartening for the General Assembly,' said Khalilzad, who cast his ballots as a UN member.

Khalilzad offered US support for the council even though Washington refused to become a part of the group last year to protest the selection process and voting regulations that failed to screen out governments known for severe human rights abuses.

The year-old council has also been criticized so far for underperforming its duties of protecting and promoting human rights worldwide.

The US said it would run for the council once the selection process is improved, including admission by a two-third majority vote - a tougher threshold to cross. Currently council members are elected with an absolute majority of 97 votes in the 192-nation assembly.

The 14 elections were one-third of the Human Rights Council membership whose one-year tenure will expire on June 19. Others were elected last year for three-year terms, including Saudi Arabia, Russia and China, which also were criticized for their human rights records. Countries whose terms will expire can run again.

Five of the 14 countries were re-elected after serving for one year: South Africa, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

The 47 seats on the council are divided among the five continents: 13 seats for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean, and seven for Western Europe and other states including Israel, Australia and New Zealand.

The Human Rights Council was created last year to replace the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights, which failed its tasks of protecting and promoting human rights. But critics have said the Human Rights Council has performed as poorly or worse than its predecessor.

In the past year, the council has adopted mostly resolutions against Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories. It was unable to seriously pick up the issue of killings and human rights abuses in the ethnic conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

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