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U.S. Kicked Off of U.N. Human Rights Commission

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The United States yesterday lost its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the first time since the panel’s founding in 1947. The secret balloting took place at the U.N. Economic and Social Council in New York, which is the parent body of the 53-nation Geneva-based Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission assigns investigators to probe abuses around the world. Both friends and enemies of the United States voted France, Austria and Sweden into the three seats reserved for Western nations. Reed Brody, the advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, joins us on the telephone to talk about how this happened.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The United States lost its seat at the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the first time since the panel’s founding in 1947. The secret balloting took place at the U.N. Economic and Social Council in New York, which is the parent body of the 53-nation Geneva-based Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission assigns investigators to probe abuses around the world. Both friends and enemies of the United States voted France, Austria and Sweden into the three seats reserved for Western nations. Reed Brody joins us now from France, the advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

Can you talk about the significance of this move, the exclusion of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Commission?

REED BRODY: Well, really, what happened here is that countries got fed up with the United States. Traditional enemies of the United States voted, like China and Cuba — obviously, resent the United States for its campaigns against them. But really what happened here is that Western countries voted against the United States, probably because of the U.S.’s go-alone position on issues like the International Criminal Court, its sole — its lone vote against a resolution to make AIDS drugs available to all in need, its opposition to the landmines treaty, as well as probably policies like the taking — going away from the Kyoto Accord, issues like the death penalty in the United States. A lot of countries have seen the U.S. acting very politically when it comes to human rights, voting one way on countries like China and Cuba, but then voting alone in defense of Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think will happen now?

REED BRODY: Well, the commission is going to go on. The world will go on. The countries that were elected — France, Austria and Sweden — you know, are countries that deserve to be there. The United States will probably portray this as the revenge of the bad guys. And to some extent, you have to give the U.S. credit for taking on issues like China that other countries do not. But what’s important to show here is that this was a combined vote — countries that traditionally oppose the U.S., but also Western countries that are fed up with the U.S.’s very isolated stand on a lot of human rights issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Reed Brody, I want to thank you for being with us, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch.

And the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees blasted as a mockery the light sentences imposed by an Indonesian court today on six men convicted of murdering three U.N. workers in West Timor last year. It was one of the bloodiest attacks ever on U.N. civilian personnel. One of those three workers was from Puerto Rico.

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