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Annan urges UN rights body to avoid politics, focus more on Darfur

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] Wednesday urged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website] to avoid the "political maneuvering" that plagued the rights body's predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission [official website], telling the 47 member states that their role was to combat human rights violations even if regional allies were opposed to those efforts. In a statement [text] delivered on Annan's behalf by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour during the HRC's third session, Annan criticized the council for focusing too much on the Arab-Israeli conflict, pointing out that the atrocities in the Darfur [JURIST news archive] region of Sudan also deserve the group's attention. Annan said:

If this Council is to fulfill its vocation, and take its place as one of the paramount bodies of the United Nations, giving human rights a priority on a par with that accorded to peace and security and to development, its work must be marked by a strong sense of purpose – one in which states from all regions come together to promote the vision contained in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

That will only happen if the Council's members are willing and able to build coalitions based on principle, and on a determination to uphold human rights worldwide. Do not let yourselves be split along the fault line between north and south – between developed and developing countries – as your colleagues have done in some other parts of the system, with results inimical to progress. States that are truly determined to uphold human rights must be prepared to take action even when that means, as it sometimes will, giving offense to other states within their own region.
Reuters has more. The UN News Service has additional coverage.

Annan's statement follows Tuesday's rejection by the HRC of a measure proposed by the European Union and Canada that would have called on the Sudanese government to try individuals charged with killing, raping and injuring civilians in Darfur. After a 22-20 vote against the measure, the rights body voted 25-11 to approve a proposal [UN News report; press release] by an African consortium of nations calling on all warring groups to put an end to abuses and violations of human rights there. AP has more.

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