UNITED NATIONS — The United States refused to run for a seat on the newly created UN Human Rights Council, the first session of which will take place in Geneva June 19.

While U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said this was in part because the U.S. is unhappy with the HRC, several commentators said the Bush administration feared it might not have enough votes in the General Assembly to be elected. Others said the U.S. fears a review of its own human rights record.

At an April 6 press conference, a spokesperson for Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, said Annan was “obviously disappointed that the U.S. has decided not to participate in the elections for the new Human Rights Council this year.”

In order to be elected to the new council on May 6, a state needs 96 votes, an absolute majority of the General Assembly. The vote is by secret ballot.

While the U.S. has frequently used its economic muscle to pressure smaller countries into taking its side in such votes, a secret ballot denies it this advantage. This factor, coupled with an increasing hostility towards the policies of the U.S. over the “war on terror” and related issues, dimmed U.S. prospects.

“I think it actually gives the new council far more credibility not to have the U.S. there,” Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, told the World. “The U.S. has emerged globally as one of the leading violators of human rights, when we look at the issue of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, reliance on the death penalty, extraordinary rendition, the shredding of civil rights domestically within the United States. In that context I think it would really discredit the new council if the U.S. was a member.”

Bennis added, “One of the things with the new council is that every member of the new HRC will have to undergo a human rights inspection during its three years on the council. I’m guessing that the U.S. is not keen on putting itself in that position.”

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