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UN Elects Dictatorships to Human Rights Council Yet Again

NEW YORK (October 12, 2018) — Today, the United Nations General Assembly elected six notorious dictatorships — Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, the Philippines, and Somalia — to serve in the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) from 2019-2021. Though these states regularly violate human rights, their representatives will now have the power to oversee the most important international human rights mechanisms, including universal periodic reviews and the appointment of independent investigators like special rapporteurs. To coincide with the vote, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), UN Watch, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) published a joint report analyzing this year’s candidates and calling out democratic regimes for their complicity in electing them to office.

“The fact that Eritrea’s totalitarian regime was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council should be a wake-up call to all democratic U.N. member states to either start taking this organ seriously or to consider abolishing it altogether,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s chief legal officer. “It was Muammar Gaddafi’s election to chair the U.N. Human Rights Commission in 2006 that led to that organ’s extinction, so if the Council can’t do any better, it should perhaps follow the same fate.”

In total, 18 candidates ran uncontested for 18 of the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The joint report released on Monday assessed the suitability of each candidate based a two-pronged analysis of the U.N.’s own selection criteria. According to the U.N., member states are required to elect states to the council by considering “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Candidates must have demonstrated that they would “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “fully cooperate with the Council.” Guided by these criteria, the report evaluated each candidate’s record of human rights protection at home and its record of human rights promotion at the U.N. It concluded that six of the 18 candidate states were not qualified to serve given their poor records of domestic human rights protection and their negative U.N. voting records.

“Regimes that systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens, and that repeatedly oppose U.N. initiatives to protect the human rights of others, cannot be the world’s guardians and judges of human rights. It defies common sense, and the U.N.’s own criteria,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch’s executive director.

“Regrettably, when the U.N. itself ends up electing human rights violators to the Human Rights Council, it indulges the very culture of impunity it is supposed to combat. The world’s democracies must join in the preservation and protection of the council’s mandate, and not end up accomplices to its breach,” said Irwin Cotler, RWCHR’s chair.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

Read UN Watch, HRF, and RWCHR’s joint report on this year’s candidates for the UNHRC here.

For press inquiries, please contact media@hrf.org.