UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations on Monday approved U.N. accreditation for the non-profit organization Freedom Now which works to free prisoners of conscience around the world in a victory for the United States and a defeat for China and other opponents.
Last month, the U.N. committee that accredits non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, rejected the Washington-based group's application.
But the United States decided to take the issue to the committee's parent body, the 54-member Economic and Social Council known as ECOSOC, which voted 29-9 to approve Freedom Now's application. Eleven countries abstained and five didn't vote.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power applauded the vote, saying "Freedom Now fills a vital need internationally, giving political prisoners a fighting chance when the odds against them are stacked as high as the walls that imprison them."
Freedom Now submitted an application for special consultative status with ECOSOC in 2009 so it can work at the United Nations. ECOSOC serves as the main U.N. forum for discussing international economic and social issues including human rights.
Power said the United States pushed for a vote "to put an end to the inexcusable attempt to deny Freedom Now's official NGO status."
"Freedom Now is anathema to certain member states because its lawyers work to try to free those unjustly imprisoned on the basis of their political, religious or other beliefs," she said.
One of its campaigns is to free 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" in China.
Among the countries voting against Freedom Now's application were China, Sudan, Russia and Pakistan. The measure that was approved was sponsored by Albania, Australia, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay.
Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner thanked ECOSOC members, especially the United States, saying: "We intend to use this status to improve attention and global efforts to address human rights violations and arbitrary detention."
"Following this experience," she added, "we would like to bring forth greater discussion about reforming the NGO accreditation process and making the U.N. a more welcoming place for civil society."