Sudan Said Will Keep Seat on UN Commission

Sudan Said Will Keep Seat on UN Commission

.c The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – African nations have ensured that Sudan will
keep its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, a decision that
angered the United States and human rights advocates who cited reports
of widespread rights abuses by the Khartoum government.

A coalition of 10 organizations concerned with human rights issues
went further Monday, complaining that too few democracies are being
nominated for seats on the commission.

In elections Tuesday for 14 seats on the main U.N. human rights
watchdog, the coalition said three out of four African seats will be
filled by non-democratic regimes – Sudan, Guinea and Togo. In Asia,
Vietnam and Pakistan, which both have questionable human rights
records, are vying for seats and at least one will be elected, it

Under U.N. rules, regional groups decide which countries are nominated
to fill seats on U.N. bodies.

The African group waited until late last week to present its list
which contained four candidates for four seats – guaranteeing election
for Kenya, Sudan, Guinea and Togo.

The United States scrambled to get another African nation to apply, to
make it a contested race and hopefully unseat Sudan, but with so
little time it was unsuccessful, U.N. diplomats said, speaking on
condition of anonymity.

“This last-minute announcement that Sudan will be unchallenged by
another African country is extremely disappointing to all involved,”
said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.

“Sudan’s human rights issues are well-known. We’ve been concerned for
quite some time, and will continue to work to make progress at the
Human Rights Commission and in other venues,” he said.

In late April, the Human Rights Commission expressed concern about the
situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region but stopped short of formal
condemnation of the government, which has been accused of backing
militias that are destroying villages, executing civilians, raping
women and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

“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. representative for Human Rights Watch which is part of the

Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor said the Asian group
also could have nominated better candidates, citing Vietnam’s
“violent crackdown against the country’s indigenous Montagnard
people” and “serious concerns” about the rights records of both
Vietnam and Pakistan.

The two countries are vying for three seats on the commission along
with Malaysia and South Korea.

In recent years, Human Rights Watch has complained that the growing
number of nations on the 53-member commission with poor human rights
records have been sticking together to cover up abuses.

Last year, the United States walked out of the U.N. Economic and
Social Council to protest Cuba’s re-election to the Human Rights
Commission, which it called “an outrage.” Russia, Saudi Arabia and
several African countries with poor human rights records also won
seats and Libya chaired the commission.

In this year’s election, Armenia, Romania, Ecuador and Mexico are
assured seats because they face no opposition. But there is a
contested race among Western nations with Canada, Finland, France and
Spain vying for three seats.

05/04/04 03:33 EDT