[JURIST] UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson [official profile] on Thursday unveiled a draft proposal for a new United Nations human rights body that would replace the highly criticized Commission on Human Rights [UN backgrounder]. The blueprint [PDF text] describes a 47-member Human Rights Council whose membership would be open to all UN member states. States would be elected to the Council by a majority of members of the General Assembly [official website], not two-thirds, as some countries had pushed for. Eliasson also spelled out several ways the proposed Council would differ from the current Commission, including:
the new Human Rights Council would be a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and therefore have a higher institutional standing; …
the universal periodic review would be a mechanism where the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations would be assessed;
the distribution of seats would be in accordance with equitable geographical distribution;
members of the Council would not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms;
while membership of the Human Rights Council would be open to all Member States, there would be legitimate expectations on members. Asserting its standing and authority, the General Assembly would have the ability to suspend a Council member which commits gross and systematic violations of human rights;
and lastly, the Human Rights Council would meet regularly throughout the year.
Negotiations [JURIST report] on the new rights body have taken place over the past several months and have not been easy. Drafters from Western nations lobbied for a smaller body that would disallow participation by countries marked with continued human rights violations. Developing countries meanwhile argued against a Western-run committee without inquiries into rights abuses by the US, China and Russia.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday urged [transcript] member states to adopt the proposal, saying that "the Council will usher in a new era for the Organization's advancement of human rights — one built on increased cooperation with Member States, individually and collectively, to help them fulfil their obligations." Watch recorded video [JURIST video] of Eliasson's press briefing on the Human Rights Council proposal. Reuters has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.
12:03 PM ET 2/24/06 – The draft resolution [PDF text] establishing the Human Rights Council is now available online.