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U.S. ousted from U.N. Human Rights Commission


UNITED NATIONS -- In what amounts to a stinging rebuke, the United States has been voted off the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

This marks the first time the United States will not be represented on the commission since its inception in 1947. The commission investigates human-rights abuses around the world.

"It's a stunning development," one council ambassador said.

France, Austria and Sweden were chosen for the three seats allocated to Western countries that were up for election, Reuters reported. The vote was conducted among 53 nations in the Economic and Social Council, the umbrella group for the commission, U.N. officials said.

One diplomat speculated that U.S. policies on the Middle East might have swung some countries to reject its candidacy.

But according to Reuters, some diplomats said they believed the Bush administration's opposition to the Kyoto climate change treaty as well as its insistence on a missile defense contributed to the loss.

Joanna Weschler, the U.N. representative of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said both Western and developing countries bore grudges against the United States.

"Washington should have seen it coming because there has been a growing resentment towards the United States and ... votes on key human-rights standards, including opposition to a treaty to abolish land mines and to the International Criminal Court and making AIDS drugs available to everyone," she said in a Reuters report.

Other nations the United States has held up to the spotlight in the Geneva commission, such as China or Cuba, resented U.S. actions on the committee and "made their feelings well known in their speeches, " Weschler said in the Reuters report.

Weschler also said the 53-member commission was turning into an "abuser solidarity" group with more and more countries with questionable human-rights records gaining election and then voting as a bloc not to single out individual nations for human rights abuses.

In the Reuters report, she cited Libya, Syria and Sudan among those given seats in the commission during the past two years.

James Cunningham, the acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the move "very disappointing." He said the decision "won't affect our commitment to human rights."

Every year, one-third of the members come up for re-election.

The commission just completed on April 27 its annual six-week session in Geneva to prove human rights violations around the world. It was established in 1947 and the United States, Russia and India had served on the rights body ever since.

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