U.N. Downgrades Scrutiny of Sudan

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From: UN Watch
Date: 19/06/2009

Latest: U.N. Rights Council Renews But Downgrades Mandate on Sudan GENEVA, June 18, 2009 — We welcome the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 20-18 vote today renewing the mandate of its investigator into abuses in Sudan, but regret that her rank was downgraded in order to win support from non-Western countries.

It was a small but rare victory today at the council, where for a change the supporters of human rights outnumbered the spoilers, with Sudan and its allies in the African and Arab blocs, as well as Russia and China, narrowly defeated.

Those who supported keeping close scutiny of abuses in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Zambia.

Opposing continued scrutiny of Sudan’s human rights violations were Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. Angola, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Nicaragua, and Senegal all abstained.

It’s significant that Mauritius and Zambia were willing to make a rare break with the African group in supporting the resolution. The U.S. apparently played a key role in brokering the necessary compromise. Still, when Washington joins the council tomorrow as a member for the first time, it will face a difficult challenge in fighting the entrenched practice of bloc voting, which abusers have used to shield each other and to erode the council’s mechanisms of human rights scrutiny.

Then again, it’s not the first time we’ve seen such cross-over votes on Sudan resolutions. It’s still far from clear whether the Obama administration will be able to chip away at the spoilers’ automatic majority on most other key votes.

We note with concern that today’s resolution downgraded the title of Sima Samar from “Special Rapporteur” — a U.N. term that implies there is a grave situation requiring investigation — to the milder “Independent Expert,” which, in U.N. code, effectively minimizes the plight of millions of victims suffering today in Darfur. According to Geneva diplomats, the demotion was a compromise needed to win votes from countries that normally hesitate to criticize their peers. (Homepage UNwatch).

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