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New UN rights council includes some rights abusers

Written by: Staff
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UNITED NATIONS, May 9 (Reuters) The United Nations elected 44 of the initial 47 members of its new Human Rights Council in a first round of voting today, including five nations named by rights groups as among the world's worst abusers.

Russia, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, identified by New York-based Human Rights Watch as unworthy of membership on the new U.N. body, were among those winning seats.

But two others on the group's list, Iran and Azerbaijan failed to win membership in the initial round of voting.

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said it was inevitable some rights foes would win seats but ''the important step is that we have made real progress'' over the discredited Human Rights Commission, shut down in March.

''It doesn't guarantee that the council will be a success, but it is a step in the right direction,'' Roth said.

The United States, an outspoken critic of the old human rights commission, voted against creating the council, arguing barriers were still too low to keep rights abusers from winning a seat. It then decided against seeking a seat this year.

REUTERS CH RS2321

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