PRESS RELEASE

Geneva, May 3, 2006 – UN Watch today called on democratic states to block repressive regimes from winning control of the UN’s new Human Rights Council when its 47 country seats go up for grabs at the General Assembly next Tuesday. In a report released today (see full report here ), the Geneva-based human rights monitoring group warned against the candidacies of 28 countries described as abusers of human rights that are unfit to sit on the body that is meant to be an improvement on its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were singled out by the report as particular threats to the credibility of the new panel.

In all, 68 states have submitted candidacies.  By analyzing key indicators of each country’s domestic human rights record, as well as the candidate’s UN votes on human rights resolutions, UN Watch unreservedly endorsed 29 countries, conditionally endorsed 11, and rejected 28. The Council’s 47 members will be elected by the General Assembly on May 9. The resolution creating the Council requires UN member states, in selecting countries for the Council, to consider each candidate’s contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.

“Next week’s vote is crucial,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer. “The legitimacy of the new Council will stand or fall based on the human rights credibility of its founding members.” Last year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, adopting the conclusions of a high level panel of experts, attributed the decline of the Human Rights Commission to the presence of serial abusers. In 2003, Libya was elected as Chair. In 2004, Sudan was reelected as a member.

“We urge General Assembly members to reject countries that systematically abuse human rights and who would use a Council seat to continue voting at the UN against resolutions for victims in Darfur or elsewhere.” said Neuer. “Otherwise, the Council is doomed to repeat the glaring hypocrisies of its predecessor, the now-defunct Human Rights Commission – and meet the same humiliating fate.” Neuer said democracies need to band together next week, including those from the developing world, “who need to overcome out-dated UN alliances that often direct votes to some of the world’s most repressive regimes.”

The countries endorsed are: Argentina, Albania, Canada, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom.

UN Watch also endorsed the following countries, on condition that they pledged to stop opposing UN human rights resolutions for victims in Darfur and elsewhere: Brazil, Ghana, India, Jordan, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, South Korea, Tanzania, and Zambia.

The candidacies rejected by UN Watch are: Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, and Venezuela.

“If egregious and systematic human rights violators like China, Cuba, Iran, Russia or Saudi Arabia win election to the Council, it will be an ominous sign that the Council is – as some of us had worried – nothing more than the Commission by another name,” said Neuer.

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