John Danforth, the US ambassador, assailed the General Assembly on Tuesday, saying its decision to avoid voting on a resolution denouncing human rights violations in Sudan called into question the purpose of the assembly.
"One wonders about the utility of the General Assembly on days like this," he said. "One wonders if there can't be a clear and direct statement on matters of basic principle, why have this building? What is it all about?"
Danforth's blunt-spoken exasperation was prompted by a ruling earlier Tuesday in the General Assembly's committee on social, humanitarian and cultural affairs to take no action on a measure citing human rights violations in Sudan, which the US has called genocide.
Danforth had just returned from Nairobi, Kenya, where, at his suggestion as this month's Security Council president, the 15-member panel moved its meetings in an effort to focus the attention on Sudan. The US has also taken the lead in pushing two council resolutions that, among other things, threaten Sudan with sanctions.
The human rights measure in the General Assembly committee on Tuesday cited "grave concern" at human rights violations and mentioned the displacement of villagers, arbitrary executions, torture and rape.
The motion to take no action on it was put forward by South Africa, and a vote to postpone final action until yesterday then passed overwhelmingly. Danforth said the delaying action "telegraphed" the eventual outcome.
"It's going to be inaction, it's going to be condoning atrocities, it's going to be condoning the status quo, it's going to be failure to support the African Union, it's going to be failure to support the peace process, and most importantly it's going to be failure to support the people of Sudan, who are suffering terribly and have suffered for a very long time," he said. "And the message from the General Assembly, is very simple and it is, `You may be suffering, but we can't be bothered."'