Human rights groups denounce Human Rights Council candidates

Five countries vying for seats on the UN Human Rights Council - Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Gabon and Zambia - fail to protect human rights and should be disqualified from membership, two rights watchdog groups said in a report Tuesday. But Freedom House and UN Watch said Gabon and Zambia are virtually guaranteed seats because candidates are chosen by regional groups and Africa has an uncontested slate in the May 21 election. Hillel Neuer, UN Watch's executive director, criticized democratic countries in Africa and elsewhere for failing to compete for seats on the council where they could become advocates for human rights. "Instead, they lend international credibility to repressive governments that routinely violate the rights of their own citizens," he said in a statement.