UN Human Rights Council to elect 15 new members

Syria had been slated to run for a seat, but in face of violent crackdown on protesters, Kuwait to take its place on the slate.

May 19, 2011 18:32
2 minute read.
UNHRC headquarters in Geneva

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


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NEW YORK – The UN General Assembly on Friday will elect 15 new members to the UN Human Rights Council.

The 17 candidates for membership in the Geneva-based body are Austria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kuwait, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines and Romania.

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Syria had been slated to run for a seat, but in the face of opposition of nongovernmental organizations in light of Damascus’s violent crackdown on protesters, Syria negotiated with Kuwait to take its place on the slate.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based nongovernmental organization that led the opposition to Syria’s candidacy, released a report assessing each candidate country’s record of domestic human rights protection and its UN voting record, based on the criteria for UN Human Rights Council membership established by General Assembly Resolution 60/251 (2006).

“We find that only 10 out of 17 candidate countries are qualified,” the report states.

“Three candidates have poor records and are not qualified to be council members. Four countries fall somewhere in between, with qualifications that are questionable.”

The NGO deemed Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua not qualified, and Burkina Faso, India, Indonesia and Philippines as questionable, on the basis of their human rights records.

“We urge all member states to fulfill their obligations by selecting only those candidates which meet the criteria established by UNGA Resolution 60/251 (2006),” an e-mail circulated by UN Watch stated.

“Candidates with questionable credentials should be asked to pledge improvements prior to the election.”

The Human Rights Council is to consist of 47 member states, elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly.

Membership is based on geographic distribution, with the Group of African States occupying 13 seats; the Group of Asian States occupying 13 seats; the Group of Eastern European States occupying six seats; the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States occupying eight seats; and the Group of Western European states and other countries sharing seven seats.

Members of the council serve for three years and are not eligible for immediate reelection after two consecutive terms.

In Canada’s The National newspaper, Steven Groves, analyst for US think tank The Heritage Foundation, noted that despite recent outcries about Libya and Syria, the Human Rights Council still has serious flaws because of “extremely dubious” hard-line regimes that use it as a vehicle to bash Israel.

“You have to have people getting gunned down in the streets before a country’s membership on the Human Rights Council is called into question,” Groves told the paper. “How can the replacement of Syria with Kuwait be seen as anything but the most marginal of improvements?”

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