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Human Rights Watch UN representative Joanna Weschler
"For several years now the United States has found itself on the wrong side of several very important human rights issues"
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The BBC's Mike Donkin
"France, Sweden and Austria were elected ahead of the United States"
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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
US thrown off UN rights body
The UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva
The US has sat on the commission since 1947
The United States has lost its seat on the UN body which investigates human rights abuses throughout the world.

It is the first time the US will not be a member of the 53-nation Human Rights Commission since it was set up in 1947.

In a surprise result, France, Austria and Sweden were elected to the three seats allocated to Western countries on the Geneva-based body.


They should have seen it coming because there has been a growing resentment towards the US and their votes on key human rights standards

Human Rights Watch
The United States polled last among the four candidates up for the seats.

All but one of the 54 members of the UN's Economic and Social Council - which elects the commission - took part in the ballot.

France received 52 votes, Austria 41, Sweden 32 and the US 29.

Resentment

Joanna Weschler, the UN representative of Human Rights Watch, told Reuters news agency that many countries resented the poor US voting record on issues like land mines and the availability of Aids drugs.

Washington has also regularly criticised the human rights record of other nations - like China and Cuba, which may have helped erode support for its cause.

Falun Gong members demonstrate outside the UN headquarters
The US has criticised China's treatment of Falun Gong
One diplomat at the UN, however, said the result was a surprise given America's arm-twisting power.

The US, meanwhile, expressed disappointment at the outcome of the vote.

But its acting ambassador at the UN in Geneva, James Cunningham, refused to comment on why members might have opposed US re-election.

"It won't of course affect our commitment to human rights issues, in and outside of the United Nations," Mr Cunningham said.

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See also:

27 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
US joins China rights row
22 Apr 01 | Americas
US ship cancels Cuba visit
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