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Annan wants changes in U.N. rights panel membership By Irwin Arieff

3/14 5:28pm

By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will soon propose changes in the way nations are elected to the top U.N. human rights watchdog, to ensure they are rights champions and not despots, an aide said on Sunday.

Annan will issue a plan in the coming weeks for "a complete revamping of the human rights machinery" at the United Nations, said his chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown.

The goal of the plan would be "to try and restore the credibility of this and have people on that commission who really are people of stature and reputation and record and come from countries of the same thing, with real human rights standing in the world," Malloch Brown told Fox News Sunday.

Human rights groups say the membership of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Commission, which opens its annual session on Monday, is increasingly dominated by rights violators that stick together as a bloc to prevent criticism of one another.

A high-level panel of experts advising Annan on U.N. reform concluded the credibility of the 53-nation commission had been eroded in recent years because members were more concerned with protecting themselves and their allies than in exposing rights violations.

Numerous governments with questionable rights records are among its current members, including Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia.

All 191 U.N. member-nations are due to consider wide-reaching U.N. changes at a world summit in New York in September. Any proposed changes would have to be approved by the membership.

Launched in 1946, the commission examines nations' adherence to treaties and conventions on issues ranging from illegal killings and arbitrary detention to women's rights, child pornography and the right to food and health.

Members are elected by the 54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council. But seats are allotted to the various U.N. regional groupings, and most candidates are put forward by these groupings without opposition, depriving the council as a whole of any say in these choices.

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