NEW YORK, United States of America, October 12, 2021 / APO Group / –
A non-competitive United Nations election for members of the Human Rights Council virtually guarantees seats for candidate countries with dismal rights records. UN member countries should refrain from voting for Cameroon, Eritrea, the United Arab Emirates and other candidates who do not qualify for membership in the supreme human rights body. UN.
On October 14, 2021, the United Nations General Assembly is due to elect 18 members from the 47 countries of the Human Rights Council for a three-year term starting in January 2022. None of the five regional lists is competitive: all have the same number of candidates. as available places. The candidates are: Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Benin and Somalia for the African group; Qatar, UAE, Kazakhstan, India and Malaysia for the Asian group; Argentina, Paraguay and Honduras for the Latin America and the Caribbean group; Luxembourg, Finland and the United States for the Western group; and Lithuania and Montenegro for the Eastern Europe group.
“The lack of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes a mockery of the word ‘election’,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “The election of serious human rights abusers like Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates sends a terrible signal that UN member states do not take seriously the fundamental mission of the Council to protect human rights. the man. “
It has been more than three years since the United States under President Donald Trump withdrew from the Human Rights Council, citing the council’s criticism of Israel’s human rights record and participation from countries violating membership rights. The United States is seeking council membership again, after President Joe Biden pledged to quash America’s rejection of the UN’s highest human rights body and pledged to fight racism and d other abuses while making human rights a central pillar of US foreign policy. Since taking office, the Biden administration has taken some steps to combat racism, but its domestic policy agenda has included the maintenance of abusive border policies and the inability to adequately address racial disparities in police abuse. , incarceration rates and structural racism.
United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council, urges countries voting for members to “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights “. Council members are required to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” at home and abroad and to “cooperate fully with the Council”.
Delegations to the General Assembly of 193 members are not required to vote for all available seats. They should therefore not vote for unfit candidates. To win a seat, candidate countries need at least a simple majority of votes – 97 – in the secret ballot. While this has never happened, it is theoretically possible that a candidate will not get enough votes in a non-competitive election.
UAE leaders have gone to great lengths to portray the country as progressive, tolerant and respectful of rights, but the human rights situation remains dire, Human Rights Watch said. Prominent Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor is imprisoned without a mattress in near total isolation. For years, the UAE has ignored the mechanisms and experts of the Human Rights Council, and no UN special rapporteur has been allowed to visit the country since 2014.
Cameroon, candidate for re-election, is no better qualified than three years ago. The government has cracked down on political opposition, crushed dissent, and persecuted lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Security forces deployed to fight separatist groups in English-speaking regions have committed systematic abuses with impunity.
Eritrea is another candidate for re-election with an appalling rights record. Eritrean troops have committed widespread atrocities in Ethiopia’s neighboring Tigray region, including massacres of Tigrayan civilians and serious abuses against Eritrean refugees. In our country, government repression consists of forcing high school students, including children under the age of 18, to undergo compulsory military training and indefinitely enlisting a large part of the adult population. Eritrea has repeatedly refused to engage with UN rights mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, in blatant disregard for Council membership obligations.
UN member countries should take a close look at the records of all candidates for the council, Human Rights Watch said. Honduras also has a poor human rights record. The government has failed to take effective action against violent organized crime, which is disrupting Honduran society and causing many people to leave the country. The lack of a judicial system and independent oversight bodies means that those responsible for abuses enjoy widespread impunity.
The Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has passed laws and policies that systematically discriminate against Muslims and other minorities. Indian authorities have targeted government critics with surveillance, politically motivated prosecutions, harassment, online trolling and unwarranted tax raids. They shut down activist groups and rights organizations that depend on international donors.
Qatar has pledged to defend the rights of migrant workers, in part by dismantling the kafala (visa sponsorship) exploitation system, ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but migrant workers continue to face abuse. And while Qatar’s constitution states that women are equal before the law, its male guardianship rules treat women as legal minors.
The government of Kazakhstan says it is pursuing a human rights agenda, but serious restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association persist, including with regard to independent trade unions.
Malaysia should stop arresting and prosecuting those who criticize the government, amend its laws to ensure the protection of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and ratify major international human rights treaties.
Elected candidates must speak out and support firm action by the Human Rights Council against human rights violations committed by allies and adversaries. They should join together to tackle serious human rights issues around the world, including war crimes in Syria and Ethiopia, systemic repression in Egypt and North Korea, Israeli apartheid, racism in the United States. and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China.
“UN member countries should ensure that all regional lists for future Human Rights Council elections are competitive,” Charbonneau said. “As we have seen with Saudi Arabia’s failed bid for a board seat in 2020, this is the best way to weed out abusive board candidates.”
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