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Rights Groups Urge UN to Seriously Address Violations


Human-rights organizations are calling for the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect the victims of abuse by naming and shaming those countries that violate their rights. On the eve of its second session, rights advocates are urging the Council's 47 members not to turn a blind eye to the world's most serious human-rights crises.

Unlike the first meeting in June, this one will get right down to business. There will be no high-level segment, no dignitaries expressing their views and hopes for this newborn organization.

Mexican Ambassador and council president, , says the U.N. Special investigators will present the reports they had prepared for the now defunct Human Rights Commission. A first set of reports will deal with so-called thematic issues.

"Question of torture, children, rights of women. The need to protect human rights in the fight against terrorism, indigenous rights, etc. Those reports include specific recommendations on things that need to be done. A second set of reports refer to specific country situations," he said.

This will include the human-rights records of countries such as Somalia, North Korea, Cuba, Haiti, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Sudan. Reports on the U.S.-run detention center for terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay and on the situation in Lebanon also will be presented.

An international coalition of 41 non-governmental organizations has issued a statement criticizing the council for failing to uphold democratic values. It accuses the U.N. body of the kind of politicization that stripped the U.N. Human Rights Commission of its moral authority.

The executive director of the rights group U.N. Watch, Hillel Neuer, says he welcomes the investigators' reports, but adds reports are not enough.

"I am actually not aware of a single country that is preparing to introduce any resolution for Darfur or the victims of any other violation," he noted. "Now that is deeply disappointing. We need resolutions that single out violations in countries like North Korea, Burma, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, etc. The message that has gone out to the world is that the first three months of the council, not a single country is being addressed except for the anti-Israel resolutions."

Neuer is referring to two special sessions held by the council that concerned Israel's attack on Gaza and the invasion of Lebanon. Ambassador de Alba calls the special sessions fully justified because they dealt with critical human-rights issues.

"I think the Council should fight selectivity. But, selectivity does not mean not to address an issue. It means to address any relevant issue," he continued. "The criticism that has come with stronger voices in terms of the balance that the resolutions need to have."

Some governments and rights groups criticize these resolutions as being entirely one-sided. They say Israel is politically condemned, but no mention is made of provocative actions committed by either the Palestinians or Hezbollah militia.