The UN has voted almost unanimously to set up a new Human Rights Council to replace the somewhat tarnished body that currently sits in Geneva. The existing Human Rights Commission has become dominated by countries with egregious human rights records such as Zimbabwe, Cuba and Sudan, who use it as a shield to deflect international censure.

The new Council will meet at least three times a year for at least ten weeks, and will be able to hold emergency sessions in the event of human rights crises, if one third of its members so approve. This is in contrast to the current Commission, which holds only one annual six-week session.

Among the few UN member states to vote against the formation of the new body was the United States, on the basis that there was no guarantee that the Council would be better than its predecessor. However, the EU states and international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch support the creation of the Human Rights Council, which is set to hold its inaugural meeting on 19 June 2006.

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