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Freedom House Urges Rice to Appoint Special Envoy to UN Human Rights Council
Freedom House sent a letter today to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, urging the Administration to immediately appoint a special representative to serve as an envoy to the recently established UN Human Rights Council.
The text of the letter is below.
May 21, 2006
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
I write to urge you to immediately appoint a special representative to serve as an envoy to the new United Nations Human Rights Council, which will be holding its first meeting next month in Geneva. Despite the Administration's choice not to run for a seat on the Council, continued U.S. engagement is vital, particularly during this first year as the body's agenda, mechanisms and precedents are established.
As you know, Freedom House has generally agreed with the Administration that a major opportunity to improve the human rights monitoring mechanisms of the UN was missed during the creation of the Council. Further, the election of human rights abusers such as Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia to the new Council has confirmed our fears that this new body may not yet be a serious improvement over the much-derided Commission.
These shortcomings, however, constitute an even stronger case for forceful, first-hand American engagement with the Council. The U.S.'s historical role as the leader in the field of human rights since the UN was created makes it an indispensable participant in any human rights debate. Without American diplomats present to engage member states in dialogue and consistently urge stronger standards, as the major American human rights watchdogs will be doing, the prospect that the Council will be truly useful will be greatly diminished. The appointment of an American special representative to the Council - with the rank of Ambassador - will demonstrate to all that the United States is paying close attention to the new institution's activities, and will allow our government to retain some influence over Council proceedings.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mark Lagon, who has been a forceful and effective advocate for the United States in the recent negotiations leading to the creation of the Council, would be an excellent choice, and I think his appointment would be widely seen as a sign of continued high-level Administration engagement with the UN.
Despite Freedom House's doubts about the degree of improvement that the Council represents over the Commission, we have been unwavering in urging the U.S. to remain closely engaged with the new body. U.S. leadership in this regard is vital in demonstrating to the world that President Bush's "Freedom agenda" includes a stout commitment to the defense of human rights.
Thanks you for your attention to this suggestion.
Cc: National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley
Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky
Assistant Secretary Kristen Silverberg
Assistant Secretary Barry Lowenkron
Permanent Representative John Bolton
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.