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UN rights chief welcomes elections to new rights council, but US critical

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday called the election by the UN General Assembly [JURIST report] of 47 member states to founding seats on the new UN Human Rights Council [official website; JURIST news archive] "very encouraging" and said [Reuters report] that there was "reason to believe that we are putting aside some of the difficulties we saw with the Commission on Human Rights." US officials including US Ambassador John Bolton [official profile] have not been as encouraged, however, noting that seats went to Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, countries that have been criticized by the US and international rights groups as human rights violators. Rights groups nonetheless noted that many countries with poor rights records who had been members of the Commission on Human Rights didn't seek seats on the new council, including Sudan, Zimbabwe, Libya, Congo, Syria, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

In March the US led a tiny minority of 4 countries opposing [JURIST report] the resolution [JURIST document] creating the Council, insisting that it wanted more to be done to prevent abusive countries from gaining membership [JURIST report]. The new body meets for the first time in Geneva on June 19. BBC News has more.

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