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UN Human Rights Council: Honduras’ Golpistas Want to Play, Brazil and Argentina Say “Hell No”

September 14, 2009

Honduras standoff delays Human Rights Council start
Mon Sep 14, 2009 9:40am EDT
* Honduras delegation challenged at Human Rights Council

* Protest from Brazil, Argentina disrupts session start

* Women’s rights, Gaza, Afghanistan to dominate proceedings

* U.S. takes voting seat, to back Israel at 47-member body

(Adds quotes from Honduran ambassador)

By Robert Evans and Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Disagreement over who should represent Honduras at the United Nations marred the opening session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday, which will tackle the heated question alongside Gaza and other issues.

Latin American delegations led by Argentina and Brazil protested the presence of Honduras, which does not have a voting seat on the 47-member Geneva body but sought to take part as an observer, as dozens of other countries typically do.

Closed-door negotiations about whether the Central American country, whose president Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a June military coup, was properly represented there delayed the start of the Human Rights Council session by about three hours.

Jose Delmer Urbizo, Honduras’ ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, denounced the calls for him to be barred from the U.N. hall and insisted that he would stay on.

“This is a totally illegal action inspired by the (President Hugo) Chavez regime in Venezuela,” he told reporters. “I will not abandon my post.”

The Honduran coup has stoked political tensions in Latin America and de facto ruler Roberto Micheletti is under pressure from Washington and other capitals to step down. New elections are scheduled for November. [ID:nN11460108]

Delmer Urbizo has been the Honduran ambassador in Geneva for three years, first as representative of Zelaya’s administration and now of the government that replaced him. The Human Rights Council was due to address the concerns raised by Brazil and Argentina later on Monday afternoon.

As a result of the disruption, an opening speech from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was bumped to later on Monday or Tuesday morning.

In those remarks, which were made public ahead of the Council opening, Pillay said that women around the world were denied fundamental freedoms, citing particular concerns about the Gulf states, Sudan and Afghanistan.

“Women’s rights continue to be curtailed in too many countries,” her speech read, pointing to a “severe backlash against women’s rights” in Afghanistan’s elections and urging authorities there to stop violence related to the vote.

WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS

In addition to returning to the Honduras issue, the Council will in its latest three-week session assess violations around the world, including allegations of war crimes during Israel’s invasion of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in December and January.

It marks the first session of the 47-state body in which a U.S. delegation participates as a voting member, following its election in May. [ID:nN12320910] Washington is expected to back Israel, a close ally, during the Gaza debate set for Sept. 29.

While citing some positive developments in the Gulf region — including the election of four women to Kuwait’s parliament and the appointment of the first female deputy minister in Saudi Arabia — Pillay’s text said “the overall situation of women falls well short of international standards.”

Gulf countries must remove the exceptions they invoked when ratifying key international human rights treaties, and grant full rights and freedoms for women, the High Commissioner argued. In Sudan, which has signed many rights pacts, a pattern of discrimination against women nevertheless persists, she said.

Lubna Hussein, a former U.N. staff member in Sudan, was sentenced to prison last week by a Khartoum court on charges of dressing indecently in trousers. [ID:nL8678488] Pillay welcomed her release, after a journalists’ union paid her fine, but urged Sudan to “take all necessary steps to address the equality gap”. (Writing by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Dominic Evans and Louise Ireland)

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