Sudan Assured Seat on U.N. Rights Commission

Sudan Assured Seat on U.N. Rights Commission

Mon May 3, 2004 09:32 PM ET

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – African nations have ensured that Sudan
gets a seat on the chief U.N. human rights watchdog and angered rights
groups who want more liberal democracies to win a place.

Fourteen vacant seats will be filled on Tuesday and on Wednesday for
the 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission. Many have been decided by
regional groups before the voting in the Economic and Social Council
in New York.

Sudan has been the target of worldwide criticism, including an
expression of concern from the Geneva-based commission in late
April. It has been accused of backing Arab militia destroying
villages, raping and killing black Africans in the Darfur region.

“A government that engages in wholesale abuses of its citizens should
not be eligible for a seat at the table, especially a country just
criticized by the commission,” said Joanna Weschler, U.N. delegate for
Human Rights Watch, one of 10 advocacy groups that issued a protest

“This is a major credibility test of the regional bloc structure at
the United Nations in terms of how it nominates candidates for key
U.N. posts,” Weschler said.

In the African regional group, which rotates candidacies for
commission posts, Sudan, Guinea and Togo — all called undemocratic by
the rights groups — will be filling seats on the commission. A fourth
will go to Kenya.

In Asia, Vietnam and Pakistan, which the rights groups say have
questionable records, are vying for seats and at least one will be
elected. South Korea and Malaysia are also up for the three available

“Vietnam in particular is in the midst of a violent crackdown against
the country’s indigenous Montagnard people,” said Freedom House
Executive Director Jennifer Windsor.

In other elections, Mexico and Ecuador face no opposition among the
Latin American group. Armenia and Romania will be assured seats among
Eastern Europeans.

But Western nations have a contested election with Canada, Finland,
France and Spain vying for three seats. The United States, part of
this group, has a seat on the commission and is not up for re-election
until next year.

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