UN rights council seeks identity despite scorn

The United Nations' top human rights body, scorned by the US administration and shunned by the only two countries it has sought to scrutinize, is still trying to set the rules for combatting atrocities a year after its creation by the General Assembly. The 47-nation Human Rights Council, which begins its first three-week session of the year on Monday, has already been widely criticized for its first-year failures over Israel and Sudan and finds itself in a power struggle. Member countries including China, Russia and Cuba object to being examined, while outnumbered Western nations are trying to hold everyone accountable to the highest standards. "It hasn't gotten off to a good start, there's no doubt about that," said Peter Splinter of the human rights group Amnesty International. The council has notably put much more emphasis on Israel than any other country, leading the administration of US President George W. Bush to announce this week that for the second year it would refrain from seeking a seat on the council.