Honduras envoy says "ordered out" of U.N. rights body

Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:03pm EDT


* Brazil, Argentina say envoy represents illegal government

* Dispute stalls proceedings at U.N. Human Rights Council

* U.S. takes voting seat, to back Israel at 47-member body



(Adds council president's statement)

By Robert Evans

GENEVA, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The Honduran ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva said on Monday he had been ordered out of the U.N. Human Rights Council after other Latin American countries accused him of representing an "illegal" regime.

After a day of confusion which stalled the start of the three-week session of the 47-nation council, envoy J. Delmer Urbizo left the hall declaring loudly in English and Spanish: "We will be back! Volveremos!"

The dramatic scenes came after Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Cuba insisted that Delmer Urbizo, who has served as ambassador in Geneva for three years, could not stay unless he was approved by ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.

Alex Van Meeuwen, the Belgian president of the Human Rights Council, told the envoy he could not speak in response since Honduras is only an observer in the forum, and should leave while his credentials were checked overnight.

"I was ordered out. They have put security guards on me to make sure I left," Delmer Urbizo told reporters as blue-shirted U.N. police stood by. "But we will be back, make no mistake, and these people will see what they have done."

Van Meeuwen later issued a statement saying he became aware late on Monday afternoon that Zelaya's government had reportedly written a letter on Aug. 20 indicating Delmer Urbizo "did not represent the constitutional president".

"I hope to have clarification on this technical and organisational yet very sensitive matter, so the Human Rights Council can proceed with its work and follow the programme we have set out together," he said.

"We will continue to discuss this matter as it is still on the table. I should state very clearly that the Human Rights Council does not exclude any country from participating in its sessions."

Delmer Urbizo said he and other diplomats from the country's mission in Geneva -- where he has declared his support for Honduras' de facto ruler Roberto Micheletti -- would return after elections set for November.

There was no rival delegation from Zelaya's government in exile in the hall, but no country spoke in Delmer Urbizo's defence. The U.N. General Assembly has called on its members not to recognise the Micheletti government, which took power after a June military coup.



U.S. "WILL NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY"

The day-long squabble as Latin American countries and U.N. officials sought a solution to the issue led to the postponement of the delivery of a keynote address from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

In her speech, whose text was circulated early on Monday, Pillay said millions of women were denied fundamental freedoms, mentioning the Gulf states, Sudan and Afghanistan.

"Women's rights continue to be curtailed in too many countries," her speech read, pointing to a "severe backlash against women's rights" in Afghanistan during its election.

The council is due to tackle other issues, including Israel's invasion of Gaza at the turn of the year. A major U.N. report on the Israeli assault, being condemned in advance by Jewish groups, is due out later this month.

It is the first council session in which a U.S. delegation is participating as a voting member, following its election to the body in May [ID:nN12320910].

Esther Brimmer, an assistant U.S. Secretary of State, told the council Washington wanted it to focus on violations no matter where they took place or which sensitivities they invoke.

"The United States will not look the other way in the face of serious human rights abuses," she said. "While we will aim for common ground, we will call things as we see them and we will stand our ground when the truth is at stake."

Developing states often vote as a majority bloc to criticise Israel at the council. Critics say that is a tactic to divert attention from human rights abuses elsewhere in the world.

This has raised questions about whether the body created in 2006 is any more effective than its predecessor, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan overhauled because it was strangled by geopolitics. (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Laura MacInnis; editing by Andrew Roche)

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