Ten human rights and civil society leaders signed a letter to Secretary Rice, which requested U.S. support for the draft resolution on the new U.N. Human Rights Council.
We are urgently writing to request that the United States support the draft resolution for the new Human Rights Council proposed today by the President of the General Assembly.
This has not been an easy decision for us as it will not be for the United States. We have pushed hard for a more ambitious result than the one presented by Ambassador Eliasson as a consensus text after months of intensive negotiations. We have concluded, however, that the proposal represents a concrete step in the right direction and offers all of us a reasonable basis to stay engaged and fight for making the Council as effective as possible.
We believe that certain elements of the proposal are an improvement from the current situation and will increase chances for a better membership of the Council. Member states must be elected by absolute majority in direct and individual voting. For the first time governments should consider a candidate’s human rights record, pledges and commitments. Also for the first time, members of the Council that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights may be suspended. Meetings will take place at least three times a year for ten weeks, instead of just one six-week session a year, and additional sessions may be called by one-third of the Council membership. These elements are vitally important to calling international attention to urgent cases of gross violations and forcing action to address them. A system of universal periodic review offers a new opportunity to hold states accountable to their human rights obligations in a less politicized process. Special procedures will be retained as will the tradition of access for nongovernmental organizations.
We believe that, under current circumstances, efforts to reopen the text or other delays in closing down the old Commission and establishing the new Council will not lead to a better result. Rather, we urge the United States to work closely with its democratic allies to ensure that the best possible candidates are put forward by each region and to insist that nominations be announced at least thirty days prior to election, to allow for public scrutiny of their human rights records and pledges.
We respectfully request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss further how we can work together to realize the potential this new Council offers.
Eric Olson, Acting Director for Government Relations
Amnesty International USA
Karin D. Ryan, Senior Advisor for Human Rights
The Carter Center
Don Kraus, Executive Vice President
Citizens for Global Solutions
Richard C. Rowson, President
Council for a Community of Democracies
Ted Piccone, Executive Director
Democracy Coalition Project
Gabor Rona, International Legal Director
Human Rights First
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director
Human Rights Watch
Gareth Evans, President and CEO
International Crisis Group
Morton Halperin, Director of US Advocacy
Open Society Institute
Leonard Rubenstein, Executive Director
Physicians for Human Rights
cc: Under Secretary Nicholas Burns
Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky
Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Joseph Biden
Rep. Henry Hyde
Rep. Tom Lantos