United Nations General Assembly votes to establish UN Human Rights Council

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

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Yesterday, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to establish a United Nations Human Rights Council "to promote and protect fundamental rights, and deal with major human rights offenders," according to a press release.

170 countries voted for the proposed resolution and four voted against (Israel, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the United States), with three abstentions (Belarus, Iran, and Venezuela). The Council will replace the Commission on Human Rights, which has lost credibility in past years due to politicization.

The United States objected that the resolution did not go far enough to exclude from membership in the new Council those nations which it alleges are the worst human rights abusers.

Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, the Cuban Ambassador, declared that a "huge discredit" had befallen the previous Commission due to the "political manipulation, hypocrisy and double standards imposed on its work by the United States and the European Union."

The 191-member General Assembly approved the resolution, which stated "members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, fully cooperate with the Council, and be reviewed under the universal periodic review mechanism, during their term of membership."

The resolution calls for elections for the new body on May 9, 2006 and an inaugural meeting on June 19, while the Commission will be abolished on June 16.

The Council will consist of 47 members, each elected individually by a majority (96 members or more) of the General Assembly. If the Council members fail to uphold high standards of human rights, they can be suspended from the Council by a two-thirds majority of Assembly members present at the meeting.