The U.N.'s top human rights official

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Posted by Joe from ( on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 at 2:25PM :

U.N. rights chief won't pursue another term
She had criticized U.S. over war

Elizabeth Olson, New York Times Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Geneva -- The U.N.'s top human rights official, Mary Robinson, unexpectedly declared yesterday that she will not be a candidate for a new term when her appointment expires in September.

Robinson, a former president of Ireland, made the announcement on the opening day of the annual session of the Commission on Human Rights. The commission is the U.N.'s chief monitor of rights abuses worldwide.

Robinson was known to be interested in serving another term, but her outspokenness on human rights issues has increasingly irritated some of the major powers, including the United States, Russia and China.

This prompted speculation that her candidacy was vetoed by one or more of the major powers. The U.N. secretary-general makes the appointment based on recommendations from his aides and member countries.

"She paid a price for her willingness to confront publicly big governments like the United States and Russia when they violate human rights," said Reed Brody, advocacy director of the Human Rights Watch, which has its headquarters in New York.

Robinson, 57, had expressed concern over what she termed the "disproportionate" number of civilian casualties during the U.S. air attacks in Afghanistan and the treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

She was also criticized over the outcome of the U.N. conference on racism in South Africa last summer. The United States and Israel walked out over criticisms of Israel in conference documents.

Yesterday a senior Bush administration official said, "We made clear, quietly, our views that she shouldn't be renewed."

Robinson further alienated Washington by insisting publicly, as she did in her speech yesterday, that the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks has jeopardized human rights norms and standards. This has been regarded as implicit criticism of some U.S. actions to stamp out terrorism.

In her speech, Robinson, a lawyer, renewed her call for human rights standards to be applied in how "those who are arrested or detained are treated. " The Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war "should be applied in times of stress," she said. "That's the whole value in having these safeguards."

She also criticized the Russians for alleged atrocities in Chechnya and the Chinese for repression of religious and other minorities.

One diplomat in Geneva, expressing concern that her criticisms were not applied evenly, contended yesterday that after her recent tour in the Middle East, Robinson did not publicly reprove Arab countries for their human rights violations.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said of Robinson yesterday: "She's put human rights on the map, and she'd put lots of energy, creativity and courage into very difficult work. . . . She can leave in the full knowledge that she has made a major contribution

-- Joe
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