//Nations start campaign for new UN rights body

Nations start campaign for new UN rights body

Mon Apr 3, 2006 5:55 PM ET13

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Some 17 nations nominated themselves on Monday for the new U.N. Human Rights Council that exposes and monitors abuses but the United States was not one of them.

In a new system, a Web page was opened for countries to put in their own names rather than wait for nominations on a regional slate. Several, including Switzerland and Nicaragua, listed their rights qualifications for membership.

The Bush administration has not yet decided whether it will seek a seat on the new 47-member council, although it has said it would help fund it.

In Congress, Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, opposes a seat and Rep. Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, is in favor.

Elections are on May 9.

The 191-member U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on March 15 to create the new human rights body to replace the discredited U.N. Human rights Commission, whose current members include Zimbabwe, Sudan, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, all of whom have poor rights records.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton voted against the creation of the new council, saying the new rules were not tough enough to prohibit rights violators from getting a seat. But most U.S. allies supported it as a viable compromise while Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands backed Washington.

The 47 council seats include 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean and seven for Western Europe and other nations, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Those who posted their names on Monday were Germany, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua.

An instruction sheet reminded voters that they should take "into account the contribution to candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights."

Candidates will be elected by a majority vote in the General Assembly of all 191 members.

Nations are elected for three-year terms. After serving six years, they cannot be re-elected immediately. The new council will meet a minimum of 10 weeks a year but can be called into session in an emergency. The outgoing commission meets six weeks a year.