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UN Urged to Reject Abusers in Human Rights Council Elections
Freedom House and UN Watch strongly urge United Nations members to block seven countries from obtaining seats on the Human Rights Council, including three countries that are among the world's most repressive regimes. The nongovernment organizations released a report in New York today that indicates that nearly two-thirds of the 20 countries running for seats in next week's election either have poor or questionable human rights records.
The report raised further concern that a majority of the candidates may gain seats on the influential council—despite their records—because of a lack of competition from democratic states. However, each candidate must first secure an absolute majority of the General Assembly, or 97 votes, to win a seat.
"General Assembly members who care about human rights must not resign themselves to approving these noncompetitive slates," said Paula Schriefer, Freedom House advocacy director. "We urge member states to restore credibility to the council by rejecting those nations that do not uphold basic standards for human rights."
On May 12, the UN General Assembly is expected to elect 18 new countries to the Human Rights Council, more than a third of its total membership. Each regional group is apportioned a specific number of seats. However, in three of the five regional groups—Asia, Latin America and the Western European and Others group—the number of countries running does not exceed the number of open seats.
The study found seven countries not qualified: Azerbaijan, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The governments of three of those countries—China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia—rank among the world's most repressive regimes, suppressing nearly all fundamental political rights and civil liberties, according to Freedom House's Worst of the Worst report. An additional six countries have questionable or mixed human rights records: Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Senegal.
Six countries were found to be qualified to sit on the council: Belgium, Hungary, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, United States and Uruguay.
The General Assembly is instructed to elect council members based on their ability to "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights" and their ability to "fully cooperate" with the council. As a result, UN Watch and Freedom House evaluated each of the 20 candidates based on its record of human rights protection at home and its record of human rights promotion at the UN. The evaluation included the countries' rankings in Freedom House and UN Watch analyses, as well as reports from Reporters San Frontières, The Economist Democracy Index and the Democracy Coalition Project.
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties worldwide since 1972.
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.