Sri Lanka lose seat on UN Human Rights Council

UNITED NATIONS, May 21, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka, under fire for its human rights record, was Wednesday denied a seat on the UN Human Rights Council while France and Britain edged out Spain to win re-election in a closely-watched contest in the UN General Assembly.

Nineteen countries were vying for 15 coveted seats on the Geneva-based body, with the focus on the contests in the Asian and West European groups.

Candidate countries needed an absolute majority — or 97 votes from the UN’s 192 nations — to be elected. Members serve three-year terms and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

In Wednesday’s election in the 192-member General Assembly, Sri Lanka, Spain, Serbia and East Timor failed to gain seat on the 47-member rights body.

“I think that the defeat of Sri Lanka is a very important signal. A country which tortures and disappears its own people has no place on the world’s leading human rights body,” said Human Rights Watch’s UN advocacy director Steve Crawshaw.

“The defeat of the authoritarian state of Belarus last year and now the defeat of Sri Lanka this year: I hope a clear signal has been set for the future: Countries with poor human rights track records have no place on this council,” he