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Pak, China 'unworthy' of UN body

Their bid to get into the revamped UN Human Rights Council has come in for sharp criticism, writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: May 10, 2006 01:40 IST

The bid by Pakistan, China, Iran, Cuba and some other countries to get into the revamped UN Human Rights Council has come in for sharp criticism from activist groups like the Human Rights Watch.

Sixty-four countries, including India, have thrown their hats into the ring to win berths in the revamped 47-member UN Human Rights Council, the election for which is slated for Tuesday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has called upon the UN's 191 member states to reject countries like China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Azerbaijan because of their "unworthy" human rights records.

Its executive director Kenneth Roth, however, conceded that several of these nations could land seats in the council. Countries like China, Russia and Cuba do attract support from several nations, despite their standing on the human rights front, he rued. 

But HRW and other groups like Amnesty and UN Watch feel that the imperfections notwithstanding, the new Human Rights Council will be a clear improvement over its predecessor. They also drew comfort from the fact that "rights abusers" like Libya, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Syria have decided not to run. 

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan regards the election as "a great opportunity to make a fresh start".

In the election, to be held by secret ballot, a country would need the votes of at least 96 nations to be chosen. Experts believe this stipulation of absolute majority could necessitate more than one round of polling. 

In the Asian segment, 18 countries are vying for 13 seats. Besides India, China, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the others in the race include Bangladesh, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand. 

The United States has decided not to contest this year, saying it first wants to see how the new council functions.