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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

U.N. Rights Council Election Is Farce: Vaclav Havel

May 13, 2009

By Louis Charbonneau
May 11, 2009

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- This week's U.N.
Human Rights Council elections, in which several
nations seen to have dubious human rights records
are virtually assured victory, are a farce, says
former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

In an article published by the New York Times on
Monday, the Czech playwright and former
anti-communist dissident called on U.N. member
states to refuse to vote for any human rights
violators when they fill out their secret ballots on Tuesday.

"Imagine an election where the results are
largely preordained and a number of candidates
are widely recognized as unqualified," Havel wrote.

He said countries should refuse to vote for
rights abusers in the "shamefully uncontested election."

"Any supposedly democratic ballot conducted in
this way would be considered a farce," wrote
Havel, who penned more than a dozen farces for
the stage. "Yet tomorrow the (U.N.) General
Assembly will engage in just such an 'election'
when it votes to fill the vacancies on the 47-member Human Rights Council."

Only 20 countries are running for 18 vacant seats
on the Geneva-based council. U.N. diplomats said
the outcome is nearly set in stone, since most
countries in the five geographic regions have
already struck agreements on who to support.

The council was set up three years ago to replace
the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which was
widely criticized for failing to overcome
political alliances and take a strong stand on
issues including China's rights record.

But the new council has also been criticized for
singling out Israel and its treatment of the
Palestinians and not taking a strong enough stand
against violence in Tibet and Darfur.


The human rights group Freedom House said seven
candidate countries had dubious rights records:
Azerbaijan, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti,
Russia and Saudi Arabia. The group and urged U.N. member states to block them.

Human Rights Watch also condemned the trading of
votes for seats on the Human Rights Council as unacceptable.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama
has reversed the policy of his predecessor George
W. Bush, who shunned the council as a forum for attacking Israel.

But Obama, who joined Israel and other countries
in boycotting the council's widely condemned
racism conference in Geneva last month, decided
that the United States would run for a seat in a
bid to improve the U.N. rights panel from within.

Havel criticized the Western states, who had
previously run competitive slates, for putting up
only three candidates, the United States, Norway
and Belgium, for the bloc's three seats.

Havel also criticized Latin America with its
"flourishing democracies" for letting Cuba make
an uncontested bid to renew its seat, and Asia
for allowing China and Saudi Arabia to join three
other states in running for that bloc's five seats.

Azerbaijan's and Russia's "human rights records
oscillate from questionable to despicable," Havel
wrote, but only Hungary was opposing them in
their bid for two eastern European seats.

Others seeking three-year seats are Bangladesh,
Djibouti, Kenya, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius,
Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal and Uruguay.

(Editing by Will Dunham)
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