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Pak enters UN rights body despite opposition

May 22, 2008 12:36 IST

Bitterly opposed by rights groups, Pakistan scraped through an election to the 47-member Human Rights Council tasked with ensuring that human rights are observed by member States.

Japan, South Korea and Bahrain were among 15 members elected to the Geneva-based Council created by the General Assembly in May 2006 as the United Nations' principal political human rights body to replace the much-criticised Commission on Human Rights.

India was elected last year and its term ends in 2010, but it would be eligible for re-election.

Most members, including Pakistan and Bahrain, were elected despite opposition from the human rights groups who said that their record had been dismal.

Immediately after the results were known, several rights group welcomed the rejection of Sri Lanka's candidature. But weeks before the election, diplomats had predicted that Japan, South Korea and Bahrain were certain to find place on the Council and the contest in the Asian group would be between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Both countries had actively lobbied for weeks and Sri Lankan foreign minister had come especially to New York to lobby his country's case.

In the Asian group, Japan got maximum 155 votes, but Pakistan just managed 114 votes and Sri Lanka could not make it with 101 votes. The new members would start their three-year term on June 20. One-third of the members of the Council retire each year.

Twelve of the 15 members were re-elected. Burkina Faso, Chile and Slovakia find place on the Council for the first time and Britain, France, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Ukraine and Zambia were re-elected.

But human rights groups say the Council is no improvement over the Commission and rights abusers continue to shield one another. Based on equitable geographical distribution, seats are allocated to the five regional groups as follows: African Group, 13 seats; Asian Group, 13 seats; Eastern European Group, 6 seats; Latin American and Caribbean Group, 8 seats; and Western and Others Group, 7 seats.

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