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Libya, Thailand Elected To UN Human Rights Council

Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Libya and Thailand were among 14 countries elected as new members of the UN Human Rights Council today in a vote that rights advocates criticized as uncompetitive and "pre-cooked."

Angola, Mauritania, Uganda, Maldives, Malaysia, Qatar, Moldova, Poland, Ecuador, Guatemala, Spain, and Switzerland were also elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms on the 47-nation council, which is based in Geneva.

Both Libya and Thailand have been criticized by rights groups for their human rights records.

"The council elections have become a pre-cooked process that strips the meaning from the membership standards established by the General Assembly," said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

"States serious about the role the council can play in promoting human rights should push for competitive slates in all regions, and should be willing to compete for a seat themselves," she said.

Iran had also been running for a seat on the council but withdrew its candidacy last month in exchange for a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Western diplomats in New York said Iran pulled out of what had been a competitive slate for the Asia group's four open slots when it became clear it would lose.

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York last week that the withdrawal was a "procedural" matter and Tehran was pleased to serve on the UN women's commission.

Last year the United States successfully campaigned for a seat on the Human Rights Council, a body the previous U.S. administration had shunned as anti-Israeli and soft on a number of authoritarian governments.

When Washington decided to join the council, U.S. President Barack Obama and his UN ambassador Susan Rice said it would be better to try to change the often criticized Human Rights Council from within.