Geneva, June 18, 2009 — UN Watch welcomed the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 20-19 vote today renewing the mandate of its investigator into abuses in Sudan, but expressed regret that her rank was downgraded in order to win support from non-Western countries.
“We had a small but rare victory today at the U.N. Human Rights Council, where for a change the supporters of human rights outnumbered the spoilers, with Sudan and its allies in the African and Arab blocs, as well as Russia and China, narrowly defeated,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights monitoring group.
Those who supported keeping the mandate were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Zambia.
Opposing continued scrutiny of Sudan’s human rights violations were Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.
Angola, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Nicaragua, and Senegal all abstained.
“It’s significant that Mauritius and Zambia were willing to break with the African group on this resolution,” said Neuer. “When the U.S. joins the council tomorrow for the first time, it will need to lead the fight against the malicious and entrenched practice of bloc voting, which has been used to erode the council’s mechanisms of human rights scrutiny.”
“Then again, it’s not the first time we’ve seen such cross-over votes on Sudan, and it’s still far from clear whether the Obama administration will be able to chip away at the spoilers’ automatic majority on most key votes.”
Neuer was “deeply concerned” that today’s resolution downgraded the title of Sima Samar from “Special Rapporteur,” a U.N. term which implies a grave situation requiring investigation, to the milder “Independent Expert,” which Neuer said “effectively minimizes the plight of millions of victims suffering today in Darfur.” According to Geneva diplomats, the demotion was a compromise needed to win votes from countries that normally hesitate to criticize their peers.
After Egypt defended Sudan on behalf of the African group, Uganda protested that Egypt was not speaking for all African states. In a rare rejoinder, the Egyptian envoy retorted that Uganda failed to regularly attend the group’s meetings.
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