- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 20, 2006

On May 9, the Argentine Republic was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to integrate the Human Rights Council, the new U.N. body that will replace the Commission on Human Rights established in 1947.

Our country was elected by the United Nations General Assembly as one of the 47 member states to this new Council. We are grateful to all those states that, bearing in mind our tragic history of gross and systematic human-rights violations, valued our present record and commitments in this field. This election implies a deep responsibility toward all persons, organizations and governments that expect this body to guarantee a major enforcement of human rights around the world.

This new body will be permanent and directly subsidiary to the General Assembly, which will enable it to deeply analyze human-rights violations in any and all countries. The council work shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, nonselectivity and constructive international dialogue. It shall have to report in time to all bodies and agencies that, like the Security Council, may prevent or stop gross and systematic violations.

This new council must transcend incidental political debates and become a stable, central and permanent element of international relations. In the past, the Argentine society suffered the politicization and selectivity of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which privileged the bipolar balance of power at that time instead of defense of fundamental and permanent human rights, such as the right to life.

Despite thousands of reports received at the commission during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983), my country’s government was never condemned, and the indifference of the majority of U.N. member states forced creation of a special working group to publicly expose the gross and systematic violations in Argentina.

We have learned from our own history, and since the return to democracy have assumed a position based on principles in the defense and promotion of human rights. We have ratified the great majority of the regional and universal treaties on human rights. And, as very few countries in the world, we have granted constitutional hierarchy to these human-rights instruments. Argentina permanently cooperates with international monitoring bodies and participates in every forum with the goal of improving existing standards in this field worldwide.

Since the beginning of debate on reforming the U.N. system, President Nestor Kirchner’s government has strongly supported strengthening human rights within the U.N. to put this on the same footing as other relevant issues, such as developing and maintaining peace and international security.

This is not just a choice but an obligation for all states in light of the importance human rights have today for peace, development and democratic stability.

We must highlight and reinforce the true importance of the commission’s contribution to developing international human-rights law over several decades by developing standards and treaties. At this first stage of the council, we must ensure procedural matters do not displace substantive issues and obtain prompt approval of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Forced Disappearances, as well as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Human Rights Council offers the international community the opportunity to guarantee an efficient and effective international protection system. This is an obligation of all states that have assumed the responsibility to be a part of this early stage, always remembering that respect for the principle of negotiation must not imply negotiation of principles.

Thirty years after the military coup that disrupted the institutions and the fundamental rights of the people of my country, Argentina commits itself to making a sound contribution so the U.N. Human Rights Council may meet the demands of the 21st century on this issue, which is essential for the survival of our nations.

Jorge Taiana is foreign affairs minister of Argentina.

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