Amnesty Int'l to Detail Human Rights Record of Candidates for U.N. Watchdog Agency

Amnesty International will launch a new Web site Wednesday to detail the human rights records of candidate countries seeking election to a new U.N. Human Rights Council.

The 47-nation council — which replaces the highly politicized and often criticized Human Rights Commission — will be elected by the U.N. General Assembly next month.

The 53-member commission was discredited in recent years because some countries with poor human rights records used their membership to protect one another from condemnation. Members in recent years included Sudan, Libya, Zimbabwe and Cuba.

The Amnesty site — which goes live Wednesday — will allow government delegates and other interested parties to click on individual countries from the list of candidates, giving access to concise information about their current human rights situation and record.

This will include which human rights treaties the countries have ratified and details of reports on how they have respected their obligations.

Martin Macpherson, head of Amnesty's international law program, said the group's Web site will give U.N. members the information they need "to use their votes wisely — in the interest of human rights internationally."

The United States will not be a candidate in the May 9 election though it will support and finance the new council.

Washington was virtually alone in voting against the establishment of the council, arguing that the new body was only marginally better than the commission and would not be able to exclude rights-abusing countries.