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(Geneva) - When President Lula da Silva of Brazil addresses the UN Human Rights Council on June 15, 2009, he should explain why Brazil is using its vote in the council to protect countries with appalling human rights records, Human Rights Watch said today.

"Brazil's support for abusive governments is undermining the Human Rights Council's performance," said Julie de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Rather than speaking up for victims, Brazil often argues that governments need to be given a chance and that the sovereignty of nations is more important than human rights."

Over the past few months, Brazil has abstained on a resolution on the situation in North Korea, which deplored the grave, widespread, and systematic human rights abuses there, in particular the use of torture and labor camps against political prisoners. Brazil has also abstained on a vote on the situation of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which sought to strengthen the role of expert investigators and to condemn the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and child recruitment.

During the special session on the situation in Sri Lanka, Brazil co-sponsored a resolution that affirmed the long-discredited principle of non-interference in domestic affairs. The resolution ignored allegations echoed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, that war crimes may have been committed by both government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and should be investigated by an independent inquiry or commission.

Human Rights Watch said Brazil seemed to believe that deploring the death of thousands of civilians and expressing concern about the fate of 300,000 people detained in camps in Sri Lanka was interference in domestic affairs.

"Brazil seems more concerned about not offending abusers than it is about implementing the council's mandate to address human rights violations," said de Rivero.

In these votes and debates, Brazil has preferred to align itself with countries like China, Cuba and Pakistan that question the value of country-specific action at the council. Brazil has turned its back on countries like Argentina, Mexico, and Chile that have had a much more committed approach to human rights in the UN.

"Brazil is siding with human rights violators rather than with their victims," de Rivero said. "We hope that in the future Brazil's response to abuses raised at the Human Rights Council will be unequivocal and firmly on the side of victims."

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