Kuwait elected to UNHRC in Syria's stead

Syria’s place on the slate was taken over by Kuwait, received 166 votes in favor, the least number of votes received by any of the 4 Asian winners.

By JORDANA HORN, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
May 20, 2011 20:19
2 minute read.
UNHRC headquarters in Geneva

UNHRC headquarters 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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NEW YORK – In a UN General Assembly election by secret ballot on Friday, new members were chosen for the UN Human Rights Council, which sits in Geneva.

The 15 new members elected to the council are Burkina Faso, Botswana, Benin and Congo from Africa; Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Kuwait from Asia; Czech Republic and Romania from Eastern Europe; Chile, Costa Rica and Peru from Latin America and the Caribbean; and Italy and Austria from Western Europe.

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These nations will serve for three years.

Syria, which withdrew from consideration for one of the Asian seats after it received harsh criticism for its violent crackdown on protesters, received five votes. Syria’s place on the slate was taken over by Kuwait, which received 166 votes in favor, the least number of votes received by any of the four Asian winners.

UN Watch, an NGO based in Geneva, issued an evaluation of candidates, stating that only 10 of the 17 candidate countries are qualified. UN Watch deemed Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua not qualified to serve on the Human Rights Council, based on their human rights records, and Burkina Faso, India, Indonesia and the Philippines to be questionable as to their qualifications.

Only Nicaragua, from this list, was not elected to the body.

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UN Watch’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, expressed disappointment with the election of Congo and Kuwait to the council, but hailed the defeat of Nicaragua, after a campaign with other rights groups that spotlighted the poor records of all three countries.

“Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua have poor records in respecting the basic human rights of their own citizens, and have consistently voted the wrong way on UN initiatives to promote and protect the human rights of others,” Neuer said.

“With today’s election, only 20 out of the 47 members rank as free democracies, while the rest – a majority of 58 percent – fail to meet basic democracy standards, rated as either not free or only partly free by Freedom House’s annual survey.”

However, Neuer called Nicaragua’s defeat “important,” as Nicaragua has been an ardent defender of both Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“So two dictators who are killing their own people today lost a key ally,” Neuer said.

Still, Neuer said the council is far from ideal.

“With members like Bahrain, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, joined today by Congo and Kuwait, the Human Rights Council is still a case of the foxes guarding the chickens,” Neuer said.

A country needed to receive a majority of votes – that is, 97 votes from the 192-member body – to be elected.

In a few regional votes, there were a handful of abstentions.

As balloting is anonymous, so too were the abstainers. There were three abstentions in the African race, two in the Asian race and three in the Eastern European race.

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