United Nations Human Rights COuncil

UNITED NATIONS (CP) - Canada was one of the countries elected Tuesday to the new UN Human Rights Council that will have 47 member countries from all regions of the world.

In welcoming the news, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Canada is committed to working with the other countries to deal with human rights violations.

"With a seat on the council, Canada will make a valuable contribution to its important work in establishing and enforcing human rights standards," MacKay said in a statement released while he was visiting Afghanistan.

The council replaces the much politicized UN Human Rights Commission, which was discredited in recent years because some countries with poor human rights records had used their membership to protect one another from condemnation.

Under rules for the new council, members must be elected by an absolute majority of the 191 UN members, meaning 96 countries. For the sake of global representation, the UN resolution creating the council gives Africa and Asia 13 seats each, Latin America and the Caribbean eight seats, western countries seven seats and Eastern Europe six seats.

Canada has long been a proponent of UN reform and a strong supporter of the Human Rights Council.

Washington, on the other hand, did not seek a seat on the council but stated it would work with the new body. The United States was one of only four countries that voted voting against the council when the UN General Assembly approved its creation in March. The resolution passed with 170 countries in favour.

U.S. officials said not enough was done to prevent abusive countries from becoming members. The United States had lobbied unsuccessfully to have the new council elected by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to keep out rights abusers.

The General Assembly on Tuesday elected 44 of the 47 members to the new council. A second round of voting will be held at a later date to decide three Eastern European seats that were left unfilled. Only the Russian Federation, Poland and the Czech Republic won seats in the first round of voting.

Ghana topped the voting for the 13 African seats, which also included South Africa and Algeria. India garnered the most votes for the 13 Asian seats, which included China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Other countries winning seats were Brazil, Cuba, Uruguay, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Some of the selections drew criticism from B'nai Brith Canada, which expressed concern in a news release Tuesday.

"While we are pleased that Canada has won a seat in new UN Human Rights Council, its electoral victory is clearly marred by the successful bids of other states, such as Saudi Arabia and Cuba, well known for their repressive regimes," said the group's vice-president, Frank Dimant.

"It is inherently contradictory that the some of the world's worst human rights abusers will themselves be charged with monitoring and enforcing human rights situations around the globe."

The Canadian government noted that the new council will meet more regularly throughout the year, enabling it to better respond to urgent situations. The previous commission held just one session annually in Geneva.

It will establish a universal periodic review mechanism through which the human rights records of all UN member states will be considered. The council preserves the system of independent rapporteurs and the participation of non-governmental organizations.

Its first meeting will be held June 19.

A better council than the last one that the U.S rejected. So it is good that Canada got a seat on this council.
I think not
You're right Jersay, it is good Canada got a seat, what's even better though is that Venezuela, didn't. Only to prove a point.
And America didn't get a seat. And I am unsure about the rest of the major powers.

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