Influential U.N. Body Elects Sudan to Leadership Position

By Patrick Goodenough | January 30, 2013 | 4:52am EST

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, seen here at a July 2012 African Union summit in Ethiopia, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court but remains relatively free to travel and his regime has now been elected to a leadership post in an important U.N. body. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare)

( – Three months after Sudan was controversially elected onto an influential United Nations body with key human rights-related responsibilities, Khartoum’s Islamist regime scored a further diplomatic coup this week when other members elected it as vice president.

The decision to select Sudan as vice president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) drew sharp criticism from activists concerned about the northeast African country’s human rights record. President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide charges.

Sudan was elected Monday as one of the 54-member ECOSOC’s four vice presidents, along with Pakistan, Albania and Austria. Colombia was elected president.

In the U.N. hierarchy ECOSOC is a weighty entity, responsible for about 70 percent of the human and financial resources of the entire U.N. system, including 14 specialized agencies, nine functional commissions, and five regional commissions.

Its responsibilities include electing members of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the executive boards of the U.N. Children’s Fund and U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and other bodies. ECOSOC has also dealt with issues such as Internet freedom and female genital mutilation.

“The election of genocidal Sudan as VP of a U.N. human rights council is incomprehensible & unacceptable,” Hollywood actress and human rights activist Mia Farrow commented in a Twitter posting.

“President Al Bashir and his regime are orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s border regions, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile, where some 700,000 civilians face starvation and are denied access to humanitarian aid because of incessant aerial bombardments,” she added in a statement.

U.N. Watch, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that monitors the world body, called the decision “an outrage” and urged U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and European Union foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton to condemn it.

Executive director Hillel Neuer noted that ECOSOC’s functions include deciding which human rights NGOs will be accredited to participate at the U.N.’s primary rights body, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. “There is no question that Sudan’s leadership role will be a malign influence.”

When the full U.N. General Assembly met last November to fill 18 vacancies on ECOSOC, Sudan received more votes than the United States (which also won a seat). Khartoum needed 128 votes out of the total 193 members to be successful, and garnered 176.

Bashir has been wanted by the ICC in The Hague since early 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, arising from the conflict in Darfur. Genocide charges were later added.

Despite the indictments, the Sudanese leader has traveled relatively freely, paying visits to China, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Eritrea, Mauritania, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

None of those countries are parties to the treaty that established the ICC, whose signatories are obliged to honor ICC arrest warrants.

But all are U.N. member states, and as such have been urged by the U.N. Security Council – in a 2005 resolution that referred the Darfur conflict to the ICC – to cooperate fully.

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