Frictions seen easing in troubled U.N. rights body

Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:45pm GMT

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States and NGO campaign groups Wednesday said diplomatic shifts on highly- charged issues like religion and Iran in the long-polarised U.N. Human Rights Council could turn it into a more effective body.

U.S. ambassador Eileen Donahoe said emerging accords on tackling religious hatred, Iran's rights record and unusual cooperation across mutually suspicious regional blocs on Libya could mark a turning point for the forum.

"While the council remains an imperfect body, we have seen distinct progress in terms of its ability to respond to happenings in the world with respect to human rights in real time," the U.S. ambassador to the council told reporters.

"There is more shared common ground here than people realise."

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to promote universal human rights used terms like "seismic shift" and "groundbreaking" to describe an apparent softening in demands from the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) that religions be protected internationally from "defamation."

NGOs had previously welcomed the council's surprising consensus decision last month to expel Libya -- whose rights record most members had praised effusively only three months earlier -- for killing anti-government protesters.


Campaigners said the shift would be underlined if the council, at the end of its spring session this week, passes a Swedish-U.S. resolution strongly rebuking Iran over the execution and mistreatment of dissenters.   Continued...

<p>Flags fly in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York July 31, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>
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