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UN Elects Members of New Human Rights Council


The UN General Assembly elected all 47 members of a new Human Rights Council.

The new Council replaces the controversial 53-member Human Rights Commission, long criticized for being ineffective and including major human rights abusers among its member countries.

A number of nations in that category, including Burma, Belurus, Sudan and Zimbabwe, did not seek election to the new rights forum. Venezuela and Iran did but failed to muster the 96 vote majority necessary for election. Still, at least five nations that human rights advocates call abusive are now on the new Human Rights Council: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The United States did not seek a seat and voted against the creation of the Council, pushing to raise the threshold of standards for membership.

After the vote, US Ambassador John Bolton said there were few surprises.

"I would say it is about the result we expected even though a number countries who are themselves gross abusers of human rights got elected again," said John Bolton. "I think as we have said for some time now the real performance of the Human Rights Council for a two or three-year period is going to be what is critical. Now the next stage is to see what happens when the Council itself begin work in Geneva later this summer."

Bolton says the United States will remain engaged and use its influence to shape the new Council.

Forty four of the 47 members were quickly elected in the initial round of voting. But it took two more rounds to determine the last three seats from among the Eastern European candidates. Lots were drawn to determine which members will serve staggered one, two and three year terms.

The new Human Rights Council will hold its first formal meeting in Geneva June 19.