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United Nations And Human Rights

The United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to establish a Human Rights Council. The forty-seven member council will replace the U-N Commission on Human Rights.

The commission came to be viewed as discredited because over the years it had as members some of the world's worst human rights violators, including Cuba, China, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that "states have sought membership on the commission not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others."

The U.S. proposed that the members of the new Human Rights Council be elected by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. U.S. Ambassador to the U-N John Bolton also said that member states that are human rights violators should be excluded from council membership:

"We feel that any country that's under Security Council sanctions for gross abuses of human rights or support for terrorism ought to be 'per se' ineligible to serve on the human rights commission."

Unfortunately, these proposals were rejected. "The U.S. believes," says Ambassador Bolton, the U-N "can and should do more":

"We had a historic opportunity to create a primary human rights organization in the United Nations poised to help those most in need, and offer a hand to governments to build what the [U-N] charter called 'fundamental freedoms.' We must not let history remember us as the architects of a council that was a compromise and merely the best we could do, rather than one that ensured doing all we could do to promote human rights."

"The United States could not join consensus on this resolution," says Ambassador Bolton. However, he says, "The United States will work cooperatively with other member states to make the council as strong and effective as it can be. . . . The real test," says Ambassador Bolton, "will be the quality of membership that emerge on this council and whether it takes effective action to address serious human rights abuse cases."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.