US in tough contest for Human Rights Council seat
United Nations: The United States is competing with four Western countries for three seats on the Human Rights Council in the only contested election at the UN`s top human rights body.
The 193-member General Assembly is scheduled to vote today for 18 members of the 47-member council. African, Asian, Eastern European and Latin American countries have put forward uncontested slates whose candidates are virtually certain of victory.
Several human rights groups have criticised a number of these candidates as unqualified including Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Venezuela.
The five Western nations competing for seats the US, Germany, Greece, Ireland and Sweden were all deemed qualified by the rights groups.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based advocacy group UN Watch, called the absence of competition in four out of the five regional slates "scandalous".
He said at the group`s annual luncheon at UN headquarters ahead of the vote, on Friday, that the United States was the last of the five candidates to enter the race and found that many countries had already made commitments to the other candidates.
"Most people that I`ve spoken to say America is polling somewhere either fourth or fifth," he said. "If they do lose ... We think it will be a setback for the council. We don`t agree with everything America has done but UN Watch thinks America has been a leader of the few good things that have occurred."
Philippe Bolopion, United Nations director for Human Rights Watch, said that to its credit, the Western group is the only regional group allowing true competition in today`s election.
"As a result, and despite its highly effective engagement in the Human Rights Council, the US faces a tough yet healthy competition," he said.
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