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Human Rights Council reaches compromise

Member states discussed the issues long and hard Keystone

The new United Nations Human Rights Council has agreed that all countries, including those on the Security Council, must submit to periodic scrutiny.

This content was published on June 19, 2007 - 10:19

The Geneva-based watchdog – the result of a Swiss initiative – said that the new parameters were a compromise; China, in particular, had unsuccessfully battled to limit the body's censure powers.

The proposal was formally approved on Tuesday with 46 votes, only Canada came out against.

The council also decided to drop Cuba and Belarus from its blacklist at the end of a 14-hour marathon session.

During the debate which ended late on Monday, China had attempted to make it more difficult for the council to single out individual states by demanding that censure moves should require a two-thirds majority.

The proposal was rejected despite concerns from developing-country members, which felt they would be singled out.

"The European Union resisted attempts to weaken the council by making it impossible to address human rights situations by raising the threshold for country mandates," Germany's ambassador Michael Steiner said.

Blacklist

As far as Cuba and Belarus were concerned, the council made clear that the two members would not face further scrutiny for abuse particularly within the field of political rights.

The United States – not a member of the council - had lobbied to have Cuba subject to increased investigation but to no avail.

Washington had declined to join the watchdog as it felt that it was not an improvement on its predecessor as too many members with poor human rights records could join.

The watchdog kept nine states on the list of countries meriting special attention. These include North Korea, Cambodia, Sudan and the Palestinian Territories.

Monday's decisions came at the end of the fifth regular session of the council, which was set up a year ago. Switzerland was elected for a three-year period in 2006.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The council sat for the first time in Geneva from June 19-30, 2006.
The council meets at least three times a year for no less than ten weeks and can convene emergency sessions.
Its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, met for just an annual six-week session.
Switzerland was elected to the council with a three-year mandate on May 9, 2006.
The council has 47 members.

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