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The UN Human Rights Council’s lousy election

Members of the UN's Human Rights Council
(some members will be replaced on January 1st, 2019)

Afghanistan - 2020, Angola - 2020, Australia - 2020, Belgium - 2018, Brazil - 2019, Burundi - 2018, Chile - 2020, China - 2019, Côte d’Ivoire - 2018, Croatia - 2019, Cuba - 2019, Democratic Republic of the Congo - 2020, Ecuador - 2018, Egypt - 2019, Ethiopia - 2018, Georgia - 2018, Germany - 2018, Hungary - 2019, Iceland (elected on 13 July 2018 to serve as a member from 13 July 2018 to 31 December 2019 to replace the vacancy left by the United States following its decision to withdraw its membership), Iraq - 2019, Japan - 2019, Kenya - 2018, Kyrgyzstan - 2018, Mexico - 2020, Mongolia - 2018, Nepal - 2020, Nigeria - 2020, Pakistan - 2020, Panama - 2018, Peru - 2020, Philippines - 2018, Qatar - 2020, Republic of Korea - 2018, Rwanda - 2019, Saudi Arabia - 2019, Senegal - 2020, Slovakia - 2020, Slovenia - 2018, South Africa - 2019, Spain - 2020, Switzerland - 2018, Togo - 2018, Tunisia - 2019, Ukraine - 2020, United Arab Emirates - 2018, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - 2019, United States of America (resigned its membership in the Human Rights Council , effective 1700 hours EDT, June 19 2018), Venezuela - 2018.

Oct. 17.– Those who argue that the UN’s Human Rights Council is a force for good were greatly disappointed last week by the election to the council of Bahrain, Cameroon, Eritrea and the Philippines; those who praised President Donald Trump’s decision in June to pull the United States out of the council have taken succour from the elevation of four known human-rights abusers. America’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, described the council as “a protector of human-rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias”, especially against Israel. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based monitor, expressed outrage at the election, criticising in particular Eritrea and the Philippines. Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are already serving on the council.

The body consists of 47 members, about a third of them elected every year for a term of three years, renewable by election for one extra term, with five regional blocs each proposing members for election. This time around, human-rights lobbies were further angered by the fact that every new member was voted in on a “clean slate”, meaning that no candidate faced competition.

All 193 members of the UN’s General Assembly are entitled to vote. Regional and religious solidarity ensured that Cameroon and Somalia got more votes (176 and 170 respectively) than Denmark (167). The Philippines and Bahrain each got 165, while Eritrea was blessed by 160. Votes are cast in secret.

Defenders of the council insist that on balance it still does good, with its three sessions a year putting a spotlight on human-rights abuses around the world. Its last two sessions this year have been better than usual, says Marc Limon, director of the Universal Rights Group, a think-tank in Geneva, where the council is based. For example, the council has issued a damning special report on Myanmar, castigating that country for its mistreatment of the Rohingya minority. Unusually naming a number of generals as chief perpetrators, it has drawn up a detailed catalogue of atrocities that may in due course be used as evidence either in the International Criminal Court in The Hague or in Bangladesh, which is a signatory to the international court, or in a hybrid court of the type previously set up after the Balkan wars and for Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

A second hopeful advance, says Mr Limon, was the council’s resolution, proposed mainly by Latin American members, condemning Venezuela and demanding an investigation into abuses there ...

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