Russia voted off UN Human Rights Council8:30 pm - 10/28/2016
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia has been voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council in a stunning rebuke to the country which is increasingly being accused of war crimes over its actions in Syria.
The 193-member General Assembly on Friday elected 14 members to 47-nation council, the U.N.’s main body charged with promoting and protecting human rights.
Russia which received 112 votes lost its regional seat to Hungary, with 144 votes, and Croatia with 112 votes.
Russia loses UN Human Rights Council place, Saudi Arabia re-elected
For the first time since its inception in 2006, Russia will not be a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after being narrowly beaten by Croatia in a vote. Saudi Arabia was successfully re-elected, despite criticism from human rights organizations.
The 47 places on the council are distributed on a regional basis, with staggered ballots seeing a third of the body re-elected each year. Russia had finished its three-year term, and was running against Hungary and Croatia for the two available seats from Eastern Europe.
With Hungary far ahead, Croatia received the votes of 114 of the 193 member countries, and Russia was selected on 112 ballots.
Saudi Arabia sailed through the Asian ballot with 152 votes, and will represent the region on the UNHRC alongside China, Japan and Iraq for the next three years.
South Africa, Rwanda, Egypt and Tunisia were chosen from the African group, Cuba and Brazil from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the US and the UK will represent the Western bloc, which comprises Western Europe and North America.
Over the next term, which will last between 2017 and 2019, the 14 chosen members will be tasked with formulating the UN’s official position on conflicts occurring around the world, as well as the domestic policies of member states.
The elections took place against a backdrop of criticism from non-governmental human rights organizations, who say that the body has been hijacked by oppressive regimes looking to deflect criticism and drive their own agendas.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International produced a joint statement earlier this year condemning Riyadh for “an appalling record of violations” in Yemen, where it has conducted a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels since 2015, which has resulted in the deaths of up to 4,000 civilians. The two organizations called for Saudi Arabia, a member of the UNHRC since it was created in 2006, to be suspended – to no avail.
Saudi Arabia used its power in the council to block an outside inquiry into the campaign last month, while leading a successful resolution that placed the responsibility of investigating human rights abuses in the hands of its allies, the exiled Yemeni government.
Saudi Arabia carried out 157 executions domestically last year – the highest number in two decades, and is on pace to match the number this year. Critics of the regime have often faced detention, while women do not enjoy autonomy and equal status before the law.
Riyadh has repeatedly refused visits from UNHRC rapporteurs looking to investigate the justice system, incidences of torture, and discrimination.
In its official campaign brochure, published ahead of the vote, Saudi Arabia boasted about its human rights record, claiming, for example, that it supports “the empowerment of women at all levels” in compliance with “Sharia law, which guarantees fair gender equality.”
No joke: Saudi Arabia is running for the UN Human Rights Council—and their campaign brochure cites the Saudi record on. . . women's rights. pic.twitter.com/2xqO62V1GS— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) September 22, 2016
Ahead of this year’s vote Russia came under concerted pressure from human rights organizations.
A petition signed by 80 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Refugees International, asked the voting countries to "question seriously whether Russia's role in Syria which includes supporting and undertaking military actions which have routinely targeted civilians and civilian objects renders it fit to serve on the UN's premier inter-governmental human rights institution."
Russia dismissed the petition, published this week, as “cynical” and “dishonorable,” and said the accusations were motivated more by politics than by concern for human rights. Moscow, which has been conducting airstrikes in the country over the past year, says that it is acting legally, following an official call for assistance from the Syrian government, and insists that its war efforts are targeted at terrorists.
China, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Rwanda, which all succeeded in their quest for council membership, were also accused by NGOs of being undeserving of a place on the UNHRC.
The current human rights body replaced the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2006, which was plagued with identical accusations of domination by authoritarian regimes and preoccupation with Israeli violations in Palestine, at the expense of human rights crimes elsewhere in the world. The election of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya to head the commission in 2003 was lambasted by Western media and politicians, and was seen as the catalyst for the reforms that have resulted in the formation of the UNHRC.
Source 2 is RT News (= a news network funded by the Russian government), so maybe take it with a grain of salt, but they do have a point.
More about the election for the Human Rights Council:
Russia Blocked from Human Rights Council
Update: Evidence that competitive elections work: In a stunning rebuke, Russia lost to Hungary and Croatia. It will not be joining the Council next year. Meanwhile, Brazil and Cuba beat Guatemala for the two Latin America seats
Original post below
The United Nations is selecting new members of the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council today. Several current members are term-limited out of the council, to be replaced by either new entrants or countries seeking a second term. (After two consecutive three-year terms, a country must sit out a term before it can run again.)
Here are the candidates. To win election or re-election, a country must earn the votes of the majority of the General Assembly, or 97 countries.
It’s fair to say that several of these candidates have less than stellar human right records. But in regions where there are an equal number of candidates as open seats, those countries are very likely to be elected (or in the case of China and Saudi Arabia, re-elected). This is because membership to bodies in the UN system, like the Human Rights Council, are based on what the UN calls the “principle of equitable geographic representation,” meaning that a specific number of seats are reserved for each region. What sometimes happens in situations like this is that the regional groups collude amongst themselves to put up the same number of candidates as there are open seats. A non-competitive race results.
In three out of the five regions there is no a competitive race today. This not only includes Africa and Asia-Pacific (where a number of countries have poor human rights records) but also the “Western Europe and Others Group” which includes only liberal democracies. So the United States and United Kingdom, which style themselves as global human rights leaders, are not exactly leading by example here.
In the past, when countries with problematic human rights records have sought membership to the Council, the Obama administration has worked behind the scenes to convince the regional group to make the race competitive. This time around, the USA is locked in a non-competitive election race with the UK, so its ability to convince other regions to put up more candidates than there are available seats is somewhat undermined.
Why this Matters
The membership of the Human Rights Council may be flawed, but it has been an important instrument in advancing human rights globally across a number of issues. The Human Rights Council was the first UN organ, back in 2011, to affirm that LGBT rights are human rights. This began a process of mainstreaming sexual orientation and sexual preference into the broader human rights architecture of the international system.
The Council also approves the mandates of various special rapporteurs and independent experts who keep focus on specific injustices around the world, from limiting free expression, to war crimes ongoing in Aleppo, to human rights abuses in Eritrea. . A 2012 Brookings Institution study showed that these experts and special rapporteurs dispatched by the UN have resulted in real-world human rights improvements on the ground.
The Human Rights Council has never had a perfect membership in the eyes of the human rights community. Yet despite its flaws, it has been able to move the needle on a number of key human rights issues. Still, the more competitive races there are, the more likely it is that the council will be filled by countries with stronger human rights records.