US opposes seat for DRC at UN rights council

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New York - The United States on Wednesday berated African countries for backing a bid by the Democratic Republic of Congo to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, saying the move would fuel the conflict in the African country.

The Geneva-based rights council is investigating atrocities allegedly committed by the DRCongo's forces and militias in the Kasai region, where more than 80 mass graves have been uncovered.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the decision to put forward the DRCongo as a candidate was "an inexcusable failure" to promote human rights by African countries.

"When the nations of the Africa Group put forward a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo to be a member of the Human Rights Council, it does more than just weaken that body - it adds to the conflict that is causing so much suffering on that continent," Haley told a debate at the UN Security Council.

The UN's main human rights body can be an asset for the continent if African states put forward "credible candidates with strong human rights records," said Haley.

Huge blow

The General Assembly is expected to hold elections in October to fill seats at the 47-nation council, which monitors and investigates rights violations worldwide.

African countries have agreed to put forward four countries to fill the four seats reserved for the region at the council - Angola, Nigeria, Senegal along with the DRC.

The United States has criticized the "clean slate" practice for choosing members of the rights council and has pushed for competitive elections to challenge countries with questionable human rights records.

During last year's vote, Russia failed to win re-election to the council, losing out to Croatia, but China and Saudi Arabia won their seats by running unopposed.

Human rights groups have also raised concerns about giving the DRC a seat at the council, citing the violence in Kasai, the murder of two UN experts who were investigating mass graves there, and the arrests of scores of opposition demonstrators.

"A seat for the Congolese government will be a huge blow to the council's credibility," said Akshaya Kumar, Human Rights Watch's deputy UN director.

The rights council decided last month to send a team of investigators to the DR Congo to look into allegations of killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers in the Kasai.

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