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UN Commission on Human Rights May Condemn US
NZ Herald
Reuters
US may end up in dock at UN human rights meet
March 14, 2005

GENEVA - The United States, usually a finger-pointer on human rights, could end up in the dock itself over reports of torture and abuse in its war on terror when the United Nations begins a worldwide scrutiny this week.

Activists, such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch, are urging members of the Commission on Human Rights to condemn Washington for mistreatment of prisoners detained abroad.

If any such move emerges during the commission's annual session, which starts on Monday, the United States will be in a similar position to Cuba, Iran and Sudan, countries which Washington and others are likely to seek to pillory.

"If the commission is going to be taken seriously, it needs to be looking at the United States as well as Cuba, China and other serious human rights situations," said Loubna Freih, Geneva representative of Human Rights Watch.

The United States has been strongly criticised over revelations of abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and allegations of mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

But for many activists and diplomats, it is debatable whether the commission, whose 53 members include many states whose rights' records are questionable, can still be taken seriously.

Sudan, whose government has been accused by a UN-appointed commission of inquiry of "heinous crimes" in its western Darfur region, is a member, as are Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia, two other countries where critics say abuse is common.

A high level panel of experts probing the workings of the UN, at the request of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, concluded its credibility had been eroded because members were more concerned with protecting themselves and their allies than in exposing rights violations.

Launched in 1946, the Geneva-based commission examines nations' adherence to treaties and conventions on issues ranging from illegal killings and arbitrary detention to women's rights, child pornography and the right to food and health.

But the most political heat has traditionally been generated by report cards on individual countries.

Israel's actions in Palestinian territory under military occupation will be again condemned, as will North Korea, Myanmar and possibly Belarus, diplomats say.

The six week session could also see tough words for Nepal, where King Gyanendra sacked the government and took full powers, adding to what Amnesty International says is a "human rights catastrophe".

However, it was not certain there would be a fresh bid to censure China over reported repression of ethnic and religious minorities and other alleged abuses, or Russia over continuing kidnappings and disappearances blamed on security forces in the rebel region of Chechnya.

Russia was last criticised in 2001, but China has always successfully used procedural manoeuvres to block any bid to condemn it.

And African members of the commission may rally enough support to ensure that Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe's government has been widely accused of repressing dissent, again escapes rebuke, diplomats say.

In the case of Washington, so far only its political enemy Cuba has said it will attempt to bring the prisoner abuse issue before the commission.

- REUTERS

Commentary:
Did you ever think the US would become the scourge of the planet? What happened to democracy, freedom and the rule of law? They're only "words" now and objects of our hypocrisy.