Washington, DC — The United States walked out of a May 4 meeting of the United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to protest the nomination of Sudan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
Calling Sudan's candidacy "entirely inappropriate," U.S. Ambassador Sichan Siv said that "with credible reports continuing to come out of Sudan regarding the most serious human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan's membership on the commission threatens to undermine not only its work but its very credibility."
Both the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at U.N. headquarters in New York have expressed deep concern over the situation in Sudan, especially the human rights violations in Darfur, likening it to ethnic cleansing.
Saying that the United States would not participate "in this absurdity," Siv urged ECOSOC to consider the implications of having Sudan continue as a member of the human rights commission. He said it will make the rights group become "a safe-haven for the world's worst human rights violators."
Sudan was one of four candidates nominated by the African group for the continent's four vacant seats on the commission. Unopposed, Sudan was elected to the commission along with Guinea, Kenya and Togo. Others elected to the commission in the May 4 voting were Romania, Armenia, Ecuador, Mexico, Malaysia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Canada, Finland, and France.
Following is the text of Ambassador Siv's remarks:
Statement by Ambassador Sichan Siv, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council, at the Economic and Social Council, Regarding the Candidacy of Sudan for the Commission on Human Rights, May 4, 2004
The United States is perplexed and dismayed by the decision to put forward Sudan -- a country that massacres its own African citizens -- for election to the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR). This will mark the third consecutive term that the African Group has presented Sudan as a CHR candidate in a clean slate. This year, above all previous years, my delegation believes that this candidature is entirely inappropriate.
With credible reports continuing to come out of Sudan regarding the most serious human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan's membership on the Commission threatens to undermine not only its work, but its very credibility. On the final day of its 60th session last month -- just 11 days ago -- the Commission articulated its deep concerns about the human rights situation in Sudan. It adopted a decision calling for the appointment of an independent expert to monitor the situation in Darfur. While at the time, my Government made it clear that it advocated a much stronger resolution on the situation in Darfur, the difference between the U.S. position and that of most of the Commission members was a matter of tactics -- that is, how best to persuade the Government of Sudan to stop abusing its citizens -- rather than different assessments of the situation in Darfur. It was clear to us, and to most of the Commission, that a human rights and humanitarian crisis of tragic scale was occurring in Sudan.
On April 7, Secretary General Kofi Annan participated in the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He delivered a strong condemnation of the Sudan Government's behavior in Darfur, and likened events there to "ethnic cleansing." The report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights mission to Chad from April 5 to 15, 2004, had reported the "possibility that civilian areas have been directly targeted." It discussed reports of indiscriminate killing of civilians and a "policy using rape and other serious forms of sexual violence as a weapon of war." The mission reported "killings, rape, burning and looting of villages...(and) massive displacement." It pointed to a "dire humanitarian crisis" in Darfur, including disappearances of "women, children, (and) the elderly."
As the reality of Darfur unfolded, even Sub-Saharan African nations, which had been solidly behind Sudan's efforts to block Commission action on Sudan, began to press for action on Darfur. However, in the end, the U.S. Delegation lost the fight for a stronger resolution condemning Sudan. But the LEAST we should be able to do is to NOT elect a country to the only global body charged specifically with protecting human rights, at the precise time when tens of thousands of its citizens are being murdered or left to die of starvation.
We urge you today to consider the implications of having Sudan continue as a member of the Human Rights Commission. Consider the ramifications of standing by and allowing the Commission to become a safe-haven for the world's worst human rights violators, especially one engaged in "ethnic cleansing." Consider the impact that this will have on the Commission's reputation. Consider how it will affect the Commission's ability to function effectively as the world's protector of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The U.S. will not participate in this absurdity. Our delegation will absent itself from the meeting rather than lend support to Sudan's candidacy. We ask that the Secretariat take note of our action in the record of this session. This decision flows from our commitment to the CHR. It's our belief that the Commission must adhere to high standards if it is to have credibility and achieve the purposes for which it was created.
We strongly urge delegations to use this election as an opportunity to express concerns about the grave human rights situation in Sudan, rather than lend their support to Sudan's candidacy.
Thank you Madame President.