Sri Lanka bids for UN rights council seat despite opposition

UNITED NATIONS, May 20, 2008 (AFP) – Sparks are set to fly Wednesday when 15 seats on the UN Human Rights Council come up for election, with European nations vying for influence and NGOs warning some candidates are unfit to take part. All of the United Nations’ 192 members have a say in Wednesday’s vote at the UN General Assembly in New York, where candidate nations need an absolute majority, or 97 votes, to be elected.

The 47-member, Geneva-based Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the Human Rights Commission, which was discredited because governments with a record of abuse stifled concrete action.

The United States opposed its creation, saying the new body’s rules would still not guarantee its effectiveness, and has refused to take a seat.

Two years on, the council is under fire for failing to act on human rights violations in places like Sudan’s Darfur region while at the same time focusing on criticizing Israel for its treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

This year, only 19 countries are contesting the 15 seats up for grabs across the geographical areas. Its critics say this demonstrates the weakness of the system, as the lack of competition clears the way for unqualified nations.

I