Critics slam UN Human Rights Council's election of 'unqualified' new members

Remigio Civitarese
Ottobre 13, 2018

India's election to the Council was all but certain as there were only five nations vying for the five seats in the Asia Pacific category.

The US quit the council in June, saying it made a mockery of human rights.

India was elected with the highest number of votes by the General Assembly to the influential Human Rights Council on Friday with a pledge to combat intolerance. It was created in 2006.

"UN member countries should show their outrage at the Philippines and Eritrea by leaving two spots on the ballot sheet blank and keeping them off the council", said Louis Charbonneau, HRW's United Nations director.

The Human Rights Council has 47 member states, with 18 seats due to fall vacant this year.

The elections had been criticized by a host of other human rights groups as well.

"By putting forward serious rights violators and presenting only as many candidates as seats available, the regional groups risk undermining the council's credibility and effectiveness", it said.

The United States pulled out of the council in June, calling the organization a "hypocritical" body that "makes a mockery of human rights", in particular in regard to its stance on Israel.

Haley urged the body to reform in a speech in Geneva in 2017 focusing on its anti-Israel bias and also its membership - which she said led to human rights abusers being protected on the council.

The new members will serve a term of three years beginning January 1, 2019. Current members include several countries with questionable human rights records, including, Iraq, Cuba, China, Qatar, Angola, Burundi, Pakistan, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler speaking to a Knesset committee in Jerusalem on March 2012.

But its defenders say it does vital protection work around the world.

The UNHRC meets three times a year, and reviews the human rights records of all UN members in a special process the council says gives countries the chance to say what they have done to improve human rights, known as the Universal Periodic Review.

"If our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers, then we should just scrap elections altogether, and make every country a member, as is the case in the General Assembly's human rights committee", Neuer said.

"Regrettably, when the United Nations itself ends up electing human rights violators to the Human Rights Council, it indulges the very of culture of impunity it is supposed to combat", former Canadian justice minister and head of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights Irwin Cotler said.

Permanent representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin tweeted that India won the seat with the highest number of votes among all candidates. "Non-democracies could no longer hold up their UNHRC election as a shield of worldwide legitimacy to cover up the abuses of their regime".

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