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UN Elects Egypt, Angola to Rights Council, Rejects Belarus

The United Nations General Assembly has elected 14 new members to the 47-seat Human Rights Council. Victoria Cavaliere reports from the United Nations that Thursday's vote rejected membership for Belarus, which is described by Washington as Europe's last dictatorship.

Belarus failed to gain a seat on the on the U.N. Human Rights Council after two rounds of voting. Instead, the two vacant eastern European seats went to Slovenia and to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which only applied for a seat last week.

U.N. Diplomats say Western countries encouraged Bosnia to seek membership in an attempt to keep Belarus off the council.

Human rights groups had called on the General Assembly to vote against Belarus as well as Egypt, Qatar and Angola, countries which have been cited for poor human rights records. However, those three countries were running uncontested, and easily gained passage to the council.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he was generally pleased with the results.

"I was particularly heartened by the election of Bosnia, and congratulate the Bosnians," he said. "This bodes well for the reform of the Human Rights Council that is very much needed."

The Human Rights council was created in 2006, replacing the largely discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission. One aim of the new council is to keep chronic human rights abusers off its roster. But, in its first year, rights groups have criticized the council for being little better than its predecessor.

The United States did not seek membership for the second-year in a row. It voted against the creation of the Council last year, saying it needed to raise its standards for membership and the scope of its censure.

Last year, the council issued eight resolutions criticizing Israel and one criticizing Sudan.

In addition to Egypt, Qatar and Angola, the other new members of the Council are South Africa, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Italy, the Netherlands, Madagascar, and Slovenia.