Coalition forms to block Venezuela's bid for UN rights body seat

Forty members of members of parliament from four different countries are joining with human rights activists in an effort to block Venezuela's uncontested bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, according to UN Watch, a human rights watchdog group.

The international coalition also is calling for a resolution to condemn President Hugo Chavez's government for what it says are gross violations of human rights.

"One year after the UN finally removed Col. Qaddafi's regime from its Human Rights Council, the organization is quietly planning to elect one of his key backers," Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a press release. "It's absurd."

The move to block Venezuela's bid coincides with Chavez's call Monday for his nation to withdraw from another human rights monitor.

Chavez accused the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -- a Washington, DC-based independent organization -- of acting in concert with the United States government. The Inter-America Commission has repeatedly accused Venezuela of human rights violations, while Chavez has called the commission a "sword of Damocles," pushing in 2010 for Venezuela's withdrawal.

"An election with no competition is meaningless," Neuer said in the press release. In 2010, while under Qaddafi's rule, Libya ran uncontested and was granted a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Chavez, meanwhile, recently has been criticized internally by opposition groups for approving a new labor law by decree using special powers granted to him by the National Assembly in late 2010.

Opposition lawmaker Andres Velasquez denounced Chavez's decree as "the most anti-democratic act," telling the Associated Press that the government hadn't received input from all sectors of society.

Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles called the idea of withdrawing from the Inter-American Commission irresponsible, while human rights activist Liliana Ortega said it would be a major setback, the Associated Press reports.

"A decision like this reaffirms that there is a situation of indifference and complete inattention to human rights," Ortega told the Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.