UN Human Rights Council President Doru-Romulus Costea of Romania, appeared on Monday before the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which oversees human rights matters, as it began consideration of changes to the council’s make-up that would end scrutiny of Belarus and Cuba.

“Let us make the good choice, between what is right and what is easy,” said Costea. When this institution deals with human rights, it is worth trying it out all the way through.” Ambassador Costea also highlighted some of the new mechanisms and structures of the Council, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the rationalization and improvement of mandates, the selection of new mandate-holders, the new agenda, and the rules of procedure.

Canada, an outspoken critic of the reform package in June 2007, reiterated its objection that consensus was declared when “there was no consensus, and the manner in which that package was pushed through did a disservice to the Council and to the causes it espoused.” (For more information about the scandal surrounding the adoption of the Human Rights Council reform package, click here). Despite its objections, Canada pledged to “continue to work to ensure that the Council remained able to respond to urgent human rights situations.”

Portugal on behalf of the EU expressed similar concerns, most notably regarding the Council’s treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. While the European Union remained “very concerned” about the human rights in the region, it had doubts about the effectiveness of “unbalanced and divisive resolutions.”

Most countries supported adopting the June package of reforms.

While the debate remained mostly civil, Cuba and Sudan denounced the United States and “western accomplices.” Cuba accused the United States of “political manipulation,” “hypocrisy” and “double standards,” and of using the UN human rights machinery to hide its “abhorrent crimes.” Sudan expressed hope that the new UPR mechanism would be take up the “atrocious scandals unfolding in Guantanamo Bay and other prisons.”

For the entire summary, see click here.

— Reporting by Toby Frankenstein



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