Sudan's bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council sputtered out today as Khartoum informed the African Union that it "is no longer interested in taking up one of the vacancies available...."
The Sudanese withdrawal follows a behind-the scenes campaign by the United States, Western governments, and human rights organizations that culminated with a recent decision by Kenya to contest the Sudanese nomination.
Sudan's decision came on the day that a coalition of human rights groups, organized by U.N. Watch, appointed actress and activist Mia Farrow to lead a campaign to block Sudan's candidacy. But officials said Sudan had already signaled to its African colleagues earlier in the week that it was considering pulling out of the race to avoid the prospect of an embarrassing loss.
Earlier today, Farrow appealed to people to sign a petition urging Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to "Stop Sudan's Election to the UN Human Rights Council." After the announcement, she tweeted: "Petition worked!" Farrow tweeted "TY[Thank You] all who signed."
The African Union had selected Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Sierra Leone, to run unchallenged for five African seats available on the 47-member rights council in November. The nomination of Sudan, which is led by President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court with orchestrating a campaign of genocide in Darfur, outraged human rights groups.
The United States and other critics of Sudan quietly encouraged Kenya to declare its intention to enter the race, forcing the Africans into a competitive race. Kenya agreed. After Sudan confirmed on Thursday its plan to withdraw its nomination, human rights group praised the decision.
"The worst human rights offenders are slowly recognizing they are not welcome on the Human Rights Council. Sudan joins notorious rights violators Syria, Iran, Belarus, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan whose hypocritical aspirations to sit on the council have properly led to embarrassing retreat," said Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch, which furnished a copy of Sudan's withdrawal letter.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.