(Geneva) Several important resolutions censuring repressive governments may fail at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights this month, Human Rights Watch warned today.

The U.N. body, now holding its annual six-week session in Geneva, will begin today (1 April) to debate the human rights situation in particular countries. Several critical resolutions and monitoring initiatives appear to be in doubt:

  • Rather than pressing for the strong criticism of recent years, western governments are negotiating with the Sudanese government on a weak statement that could put an end to human rights monitoring of the country;
  • Western governments look set to soften their criticism of Russia’s abuses in Chechnya, despite its continued obstruction of international scrutiny;
  • No government appears willing to table a resolution critical of China, thanks especially to Chinese support for the international campaign against terrorism;
  • Several Latin American governments have circulated a mild-mannered resolution welcoming progress on Cuba, despite a wave of recent arrests of dissidents and its failure to admit a special envoy of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

“Unless governments that care about human rights show some political spine, some of the worst human rights offenders may get off the hook,” said Rory Mungoven, global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch warned that the Commission was progressively surrendering its role of monitoring the worst human rights abuses. Last year the Commission dropped its scrutiny of Iran and Equatorial Guinea, and failed to criticise Zimbabwe, China and the Russian Federation.

Human Rights Watch said that this year’s Commission was, however, likely to censure North Korea and Turkmenistan for the first time in its history.

“It’s high time the Commission turned a spotlight on two of the most closed and abusive regimes on earth,” said Mungoven. “But its credibility will be undermined if it fails to criticize the most powerful nations as well.”

Human Rights Watch expressed disappointment at the Commission’s failure to hold a special debate on the human rights consequences of war in Iraq. It urged the Commission to call on all warring parties to protect civilians, and to plan for a human rights monitoring in the country in any post-conflict situation.