November 20, 2013 | Quote
United Nations Elects Human Rights Violators to Human Rights Council
The United Nations elected China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia to seats on its Human Rights Council Tuesday, all countries that have been widely condemned by international groups for gross human rights violations.
The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA)cast votes for 14 seats on the 47-member Human Rights Council (HRC). The HRC is responsible for adopting resolutions that censure human rights abuses globally and placing special monitors on problem countries and issues.
“China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens, and they consistently vote the wrong way on U.N. initiatives to protect the human rights of others,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, in a press release.
“When the U.N.’s highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world’s victims suffer,” he added.
France, Britain, South Africa, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Namibia, Maldives, Macedonia, and Mexico also secured seats in the vote and will serve three-year terms.
Neuer called the elections “a black day for human rights” in a separate statement after the votes on Tuesday.
Claudia Rosett, journalist-in-residence at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), said in an interview that the latest HRC elections represent “the continuation of U.N. policies and a configuration that protects dictatorships.”
The HRC was created in 2006 to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights, which was at one point led by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, said Rosett, who has covered the U.N. extensively. Former President George W. Bush’s administration declined to join the council but President Barack Obama accepted admission to “work from within to reform it.”
“That hasn’t happened,” she said.
Instead, human rights offenders use the coveted HRC seats to gain legitimacy and “warp the basic definition of human rights,” Rosett said.
“It’s the Human Rights Council that routinely pushed free speech bans in the name of fighting racism and blasphemy,” she said. “It’s the Human Rights Council that routinely condemns Israel more than any other state even though Israel is a democracy.”
Rosett, the FDD journalist, said she does not expect the United States to achieve significant reforms to the HRC after the elections, noting that about half of the UNGA’s 193 member states are not free democratic countries.
“It’s impossible to create a body that is truly devoted to human rights because you have the General Assembly that is voting in its abusers,” she said. “[U.S.] efforts in Geneva have been less stalwart than one might wish.”