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US elected to UN rights council seat for first time

[JURIST] The US was elected [press release] to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] for the first time Tuesday. The US received 90 percent of the votes from the UN General Assembly [official website]. In total, 18 countries were elected to the 47-member council responsible for the global promotion of human rights. Countries with questionable human rights records such as China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archives] were re-elected under criticism [AP report] from human rights groups. Former Czech president Vaclav Havel on Sunday called the elections a "farce" [NYT op-ed], saying the lack of competition - only 20 countries running for 18 seats - "ensur[es] there is no opportunity to choose the best proponents of human rights each region has to offer."

In April, the US State Department [official website] released [press release; JURIST report] its commitments and pledges [text; PDF] to human rights in anticipation of Tuesday's election. The US announced its intent to seek a seat on the council [JURIST report] in early April, hoping to affect more change by working from inside the council than by boycotting the effort. The UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006, at which time the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment by the UNHRC.

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