Global Terror War to Dominate Talks; U.N. Human Rights Panel Meets

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

Global Terror War to Dominate Talks; U.N. Human Rights Panel Meets


Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NEW YORK - Diplomats and activists expect the global war on terror to dominate discussion at this year's meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which opens today in Geneva.

The six-week session - a reliably boisterous international conference on human rights - will feature talks on "Islamaphobia" since September 11, Washington's detainment of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the proposed appointment of a "rapporteur" to monitor liberties in the age of antiterror legislation.

The 53-member commission also will hear evaluations and accusations regarding several countries whose human rights performance regularly attracts close attention, including North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Israel.

Diplomats say that China, Iran, Sudan, Burma and Russia may be added to the commission's agenda as the session progresses, depending in large part on closed-door negotiations and horse-trading.

The session, which attracts representatives from countless nongovernmental organizations, victims' rights groups and wary diplomats, runs through April 24.

"We'll name and shame some of the bad folks and this year maybe we'll get a couple of structural reforms on the agenda that will be productive," said Richard Williamson, the tough-talking Chicago lawyer and diplomat who will head the U.S. delegation this year.

Among the U.S. priorities are protecting Israel from a variety of critical resolutions and securing for it a voice, however small, on the informal bloc of North American and Western European democracies; creating a caucus of democratic countries within the Human Rights Commission, and pushing for a resolution against anti-Semitism.

Censure by the commission is powerfully symbolic but carries no legal weight.

Washington has not introduced its promised resolution condemning China's human rights offenses, although diplomats said it will be added to the agenda within the next few weeks. …

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