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Russia should support efforts to reform the United Nations human rights machinery at the upcoming United Nations Summit, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Russia has joined forces with other states that have poor human rights records in opposing efforts to create a more effective U.N. human rights machinery,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Many of these countries clearly prefer today’s dysfunctional system that allows them to shield one another from criticism.”

In an August 26 letter to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Human Rights Watch wrote that it was “distressing” to see Russia expressing serious objections to many elements of the reform effort that now have the support of nearly all democratic nations. It called on President Putin to support the current proposals for the creation of a United Nations Human Rights Council.

In March 2005, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed a thorough reform of the United Nations human rights system. The centerpiece of this proposal is the replacement of the dysfunctional Commission on Human Rights with a new Human Rights Council.

Human Rights Watch said that just weeks before the summit of heads of states is scheduled to debate the proposed reforms, Russia still insists that an open-ended working group should be created to determine the mandate and modalities of any new human rights body—a format that will allow serious human rights abusers to stall the creation of the Council indefinitely. In fact, Russia has even objected to the very term “Council.” It also opposes the proposed standing nature of the Council, instead insisting that it work in sessions.

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