The Guardian May 16, 2001

US suffers humiliating defeat on human rights

by Anna Pha

For the first time since the United Nations Human Rights Commission was 
created in 1947, the United States has failed to win a seat on that body. 
In a secret ballot held last week, France, Austria and Sweden won the three 
seats allocated to Western countries that were up for election. The US had 
pressured Austria and Sweden not to stand, but without success.

The ballot was conducted among 53 nations voting in the Economic and Social 
Council, the parent body of the Human Rights Commission.

Unlike the voting on US resolutions condemning the human rights situation 
in Cuba and China two weeks earlier, the ballot was secret, making it 
easier for nations to withstand the pressure and blackmail of the US.

This defeat reflects the anger of people and governments around the world 
with the US, particularly with the new Bush administration. It also 
reflects the growing confidence and recognition of the victims of US 
imperialism that they can, united, stand up to American bullying.

The US administration has aroused anger over America's withdrawal from its 
Kyoto commitments; its opposition to an International Criminal Court which 
could also deal with American citizens; its opposition to the right of HIV-
infected patients to have access to affordable drugs; the use of its veto 
powers at the UN Security Council against a resolution to provide 
international protection for the Palestinian civilian population; its 
refusal to permit the lifting of the blockade of Iraq; its opposition to a 
treaty for the abolition of land mines; and on many other issues.

The US calls the tune at the International Monetary Fund which stands over 
poor nations, dictating policies which only hurt their people and serve the 
interests of US and European based transnational corporations.

It was not only Third World countries that took a stand against the US in 
the vote. The US is also blaming the European Union for its defeat. The 
recent bombing of Yugoslavia upset a number of European countries, as did 
the US's attitude to Kyoto and Bush's decision to persist with the National 
Missile Defence system.

Bush has shown little respect for the UN, failing so far to appoint an 
ambassador to the UN and is lagging behind in its membership payments and 
now, since the ballot, is threatening not to pay up at all.

The American leaders insist on other countries holding "free and fair" 
elections but when a "free and fair" ballot at the UN goes against them, 
they make new threats against the UN and those countries that opposed their 

Zhu Muzhi, honorary President of the China Society for the Study of Human 
Rights, told the Chinese Xinhua newsagency that the defeat was the 
inevitable end of the United States' long biased condemnation of other 
countries using the camouflage of "human rights".

"People across the world have long been angry with the arrogance of the 
United States and its practice of imposing its own human rights standards 
on others", Zhu said.

The ruthless tactics and intimidation that was used at the UNCHR before the 
ballot on Cuba's human rights record, only angered and frustrated even more 
those states that were being stood over to vote against Cuba.

More and more people and governments around the world appreciate the honest 
and principled approach of Cuba, the assistance it has given to others and 
the courageous role it plays standing up to the world's number one bully.

Having campaigned so ruthlessly against Cuba, it is ironic that while the 
US was thrown off the UNHCR, Cuba remains a respected member of this UN 

As witnessed at Seattle and many other demonstrations taking place daily, 
the political climate is changing, and the likelihood of US imperialism 
suffering more defeats is increasing.

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