UNITED NATIONS (AP) – China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Cuba and Algeria won seats Tuesday on the U.N. Human Rights Council, riling independent human rights groups who said their election undermined the rights watchdog’s credibility.
The General Assembly elected 14 new members to the 47-seat Geneva-based council, which can shine a spotlight on rights abuses by adopting resolutions _ when it chooses to do so. It also has dozens of special monitors watching problem countries and major issues ranging from executions to drone strikes.
Britain, France, the Maldives, Macedonia, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa were also elected to three-year terms.
Human Rights Watch noted that five of the new council members _ China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Algeria _ have refused to let U.N. investigators visit to check alleged abuses. China, Russia and Algeria have 10 or more unfulfilled requests for visits by U.N. experts, some dating back to 2000, the group said. Saudi Arabia and Vietnam each have seven outstanding requests, they said.
“Countries that haven’t allowed U.N. experts appointed by the council to visit have a lot of explaining to do,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director of the New York-based non-government group. “It’s like hiring someone, then not allowing them to enter the office.”
Across the street from the main gate of U.N. headquarters, pro-Tibet activists hung a huge banner saying “China Fails Human Rights.”
Seats, allotted by region, are sometimes contested and sometimes not. All 193 members of the General Assembly can vote by secret ballots, which were collected in wooden ballot boxes from delegates.
Geneva-based UN Watch, a frequent critic of U.N. rights practices, denounced what it considered the worst new members.
“China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens, and they consistently vote the wrong way on U.N. initiatives to protect the human rights of others,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “For the U.N. to elect Saudi Arabia as a world judge on human rights would be like a town making a pyromaniac into chief of the fire department.
“Regrettably, so far neither the U.S. nor the EU have said a word about hypocritical candidacies that will undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system. By turning a blind eye as human rights violators easily join and subvert the council, leading democracies will be complicit in the world body’s moral decline.”
UN Watch and other groups have also criticized the Human Rights Council for its preoccupation with reports and resolutions criticizing Israel over the Palestinian issue. By contrast, Neuer said that the council has never adopted a resolution critical of Russia, China or Saudi Arabia.
This year’s election had some added backstage drama. Saudi Arabia had been expected to run into trouble in the General Assembly vote because last month it won, and then a day later rejected, a seat on the Security Council for 2014-2015, an unprecedented move. The kingdom was apparently protesting differences with the United States on issues in the Mideast, including Washington’s response to the Egypt and Syria crises and its outreach with Iran, the Saudis’ regional foe.
Until last week, Jordan had also been a candidate. But then it dropped out of the Human Rights Council race, clearing the way for Saudi Arabia to win unopposed. Jordan, meanwhile, is angling to replace Saudi Arabia on the Security Council.
The losers in Tuesday’s balloting were Uruguay, beaten by Cuba and Mexico for seats in the Latin America and Caribbean group; and South Sudan, which failed to get enough votes to win one of the four African seats.
The United States is among the current members of the council, with a term set to expire in 2015.
After the election, U.S. U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power released a statement saying: “Fourteen countries were elected to the Human Rights Council today, including some that commit significant violations of the rights the Council is designed to advance and protect.”
“Today’s election in the General Assembly is a reminder that the Council’s important work remains unfinished,” she said, without naming any offenders.
On the web:
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them