By Terry Vanderheyden

WASHINGTON, February 28, 2006 ( – The US is opposed to the establishment of a proposed new United Nations body to replace the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission. Ambassador to the UN, John R. Bolton, said Monday that the US would oppose a proposal to form the new human rights watchdog.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had billed the creation of a new human rights organ as a key priority when he launched his agenda for extensive United Nations reform early last year. A major change proposed by the new Human Rights Council is the requirement that its members, elected “directly and individually” by the 191-member General Assembly, would be judged on their human rights records, with the provision that they could be suspended if they themselves commit violations.

“We were looking for something that would show muscle in cases of gross violations,” said UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden. The new Council would have a higher standing as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, would meet year-round, as opposed to the six-week annual session of the Commission, and conduct a “universal periodic review” of all States’ adherence to human rights norms, including by scrutinizing its members.

Bolton criticised the proposal for not being tough enough to ensure that nations that abuse human rights would be prevented from joining. The Human Rights Commission has been the target of criticism for its frequent election of members from countries with poor human rights records, such as Sudan.

“I say this really more in sorrow than in anger, but we’re very disappointed with the draft that was produced last Thursday,” Bolton said, according to a Washington Post report. “We don’t think it’s acceptable. My understanding is that the president of the General Assembly intends to bring this matter to the General Assembly within a day or two for a vote,” he added. “If he continues on that course, we will call for a vote and vote no.”