Candidates’ Human Rights Records Should be Top Priority in Upcoming Human Rights Council Election | Freedom House

Candidates’ Human Rights Records Should be Top Priority in Upcoming Human Rights Council Election

Washington

Freedom House calls upon members of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to prioritize the domestic human rights records of candidate countries, as well as the candidates’ voting records on human rights issues at the UN, when casting ballots for the UN Human Rights Council elections on Friday. Additionally, Freedom House calls for regional groups to support competitive slates in future Council elections.
 
States running for membership on the Council must receive at least 97 affirmative votes by the full UNGA in order to be elected. Each of the five regional groups is allotted a number of seats proportional to the number of countries in the region. Seventeen candidates are competing this year for fifteen open seats on the Council. Three of the five regional groups—Asia, Africa and the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG)—have put forward clean slates, in which only the number of candidates necessary to fill the available seats will compete.
 
“The continued prevalence of clean slates in the Council elections negates the intended competitive nature of an election and makes it far too easy for human rights abusers to ascend to a body tasked with promoting and protecting human rights,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “While the overall composition of the Human Rights Council is reflective of the full UNGA in terms of domestic human rights records, we would like to see the membership of the world’s only global human rights body improve to reflect a higher standard.”
 
Following Syria’s withdrawal as a candidate for this year’s election, the Republic of Congostands out as the candidate with the worst domestic human rights record, although the lack of competition within the Africa groups makes it extremely unlikely that it will not receive the minimum number of votes necessary to gain a seat. The General Assembly has never voted against a candidate presenting on a clean slate. In last year’s election, all fourteen candidates—including Libya—were elected after running uncontested.
 
Only two regional groups—Eastern Europe and Latin America—are presenting competitive slates. In Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic, Georgia and Romania are running for the group’s two open seats.  Within Latin America, Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Peru are competing for three seats. 
 
“When presented with a choice between candidates, Freedom House strongly urges UNGA members to vote for those countries that demonstrate the greater respect for human rights,” continued Schriefer.  “In addition, we encourage states to withhold votes from countries that deny their citizens basic rights regardless of whether or not the country is running under a clean slate.”
  • Of the seventeen candidates competing in this year’s election, eleven countries—Austria, Benin, Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Peru, and Romania—are  rated Free in Freedom in the World 2011, indicating a basic respect for most fundamental human rights within these countries’ borders.
  • Only one candidate country, Republic of Congo, is rated Not Free with a political rights score of 6 out and a civil liberties score of 5, on a scale of 1 to 7, in which 1 represents the highest and 7 represents the lowest level of freedom.
  • Five countries—Burkina Faso, Georgia, Kuwait, the Philippines, and Nicaragua—are rated Partly Free.
Learn more about the UN Human Rights Council and its member states:
 
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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