The United States and Israel attacked the United Nations for its election of abuser countries to its Human Rights Council, including China, Pakistan and Cuba.
“Today the UN General Assembly once again elected countries with abhorrent human rights records, including China, Russia, and Cuba. Venezuela was elected in 2019,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday after the UN General Assembly in New York elected 15 new members to the 47-nation UNHRC based in Geneva.
Former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted in response, "the UN Human Rights Council is a total farce not worthy of its name or the United States giving it any credibility."
Prior to the vote, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth wrote that “it takes audacity for the Chinese government to think it deserves a seat on the UNHRC as it detains more than one million Uighur/Turkic Muslims to force them to abandon Islam and their culture.”
China had the support of 139 out of the 191 nations who cast their vote. Saudi Arabia failed to secure a seat, receiving only 90 of the minimum 97 required votes.
After the vote, HRW said that China had received less votes than in previous times when it had attained a three-year UNHRC membership. Elections for those seats are held annually on a rotating basis, so that one third of the body is replaced in any given year.
“The bad news: governments just elected China to the UN Human Rights Council despite its severe repression in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong,” Roth tweeted. “The good news: the number of governments voting for it declined from 180 last time to 139 now. The fear is melting,” he added.
The Chinese Mission thanked its supporters, tweeting that it “sincerely appreciates the strong support from the wide UN membership” and pledging to “work with other members to advance the Council’s work of promoting and protecting human rights.”
THE US and Israel have long complained about the UNHRC’s failure to tackle true human rights issues, charging that it has provided a haven for human rights abusers. In particular, both countries have accused the council of bias against Israel, particularly given that it approves more resolutions against the Jewish state than against any other nation during any given year.
Pompeo recalled how, “in 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the UNHRC due to its well-established pattern of anti-Israel bias and membership rules that allow the election of the world’s worst human rights abusers to seats on the Council.
“Prior to making this decision, and after our exit, the United States has urged UN member states to take immediate action to reform the council before it became irreparable. Unfortunately, those calls went unheeded,” he said.
Tuesday’s “elections only further validate the US decision to withdraw and use other venues and opportunities to protect and promote universal human rights,” Pompeo added.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said that ”Today's Human Rights Council elections prove once again that this council has nothing to do with protecting human rights and everything to do with violating them.
“Since 2006, the council has adopted 90 resolutions condemning Israel, more than all the resolutions against Syria, North Korea and Iran combined. The obsessive focus on Israel, along with its protection of oppressive, dictatorial regimes, shows that the Human Rights Council is in the business of white-washing the crimes of these countries,” Erdan said.
“I call on all democracies that are still members of the council to immediately resign from this shameful and antisemitic body."
Tuesday’s election also weakened support for Israel at the UNHRC, given that two countries which end their terms in 2020, Australia and the Czech Republic, were replaced by nations with a voting record that is less sympathetic to the Jewish state.
At a weekend event, Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch, called for the UN to end elections to the UNHRC and to open it up to all of the UN’s 193 members.
Limiting UNHRC membership to 47 countries based on an election gives a status symbol to those countries that are elected, even though they have a poor human rights record.
“We have to consider scrapping the entire election process” because “the elections have no effect other than a negative effect of allowing those countries to parade themselves around the world as elected members – and it does not have the desired effect of keeping them off," he said.
The resolution that created the UNHRC in 2006 said that membership should be based on the nation’s human rights records, but that resolution is rarely adhered to, he said.
Human rights abusers elected to the UNHRC “go around the world and say ‘look at me, I have a badge of approval,’" Neuer said."The moment after the elections happened, you will see the media proudly proclaiming how wonderful they are and how the... international community chose them to be on the human rights body."