U.S. Faces Uphill Battle at UN Human Rights Council | Freedom House

U.S. Faces Uphill Battle at UN Human Rights Council

New York

The United States is a welcome addition to the United Nations Human Rights Council, but the country will face an uphill battle in restoring credibility to a body that also counts some of the world's most repressive regimes among its membership.

The United States received 167 out of 192 votes from the UN General Assembly today, more than the 97 votes required. At the same time, human rights abusers such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia retained their seats by similarly large margins. The Obama administration announced in March it would run for a seat, ending a U.S. boycott of the 47-member council over its poor record in promoting human rights.

"We are pleased that the United States ran and won, but now the real work begins," said Paula Schriefer, Freedom House advocacy director. "Time will tell if the U.S. is willing to expend the necessary political capital behind the scenes on the council to turn the tide on council resolutions and its voting patterns."

Freedom House also urges the United States to take a leading role introducing country-specific resolutions and calling for special sessions on urgent human rights issues. Since the council's inception in 2006, only two of the 17 countries that receive Freedom House's lowest ratings for political rights and civil liberties-North Korea and Burma-have been the targets of strong council resolutions.

Only two of the regional candidate slates in this year's elections were competitive, Africa and Eastern Europe. In Africa, Kenya lost out to Cameroon, Djibouti, Mauritius, Nigeria and Senegal. In Eastern Europe, Russia and Hungary gained seats, defeating Azerbaijan.

Rounding out the 18 new members are Bangladesh, China, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan and Saudi Arabia for Asia; Belgium and Norway for the Western Europe and Others Group; and Mexico, Uruguay and Cuba for Latin America.

"Cuba's reelection to the council is a travesty," said Schriefer. "Latin America should be leading on human rights, but instead its democracies allowed the region's only not free country to once again simply stroll onto the council."

General Assembly members are supposed to take into account countries' human rights records, but a report from Freedom House judged six of the winning candidates not qualified to serve a three-year term on the council.

To learn more about UN Human Rights Council members, read:

Evaluation of 2009-2012 UN Human Rights Council Candidates

NGOs for an Effective Human Rights Council

Worst of the Worst 2009: The World’s Most Repressive Societies

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.

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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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