Friday, October 22, 2021

US wins seat on UN rights council in unopposed elections

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump denounced and resigned, joining 17 other nations elected Thursday in uncontested votes that were criticized for guaranteeing places to countries with lousy rights background.

The 193-member UN General Assembly elected the 18 candidates proposed by the five regional groups of the world organization. Benin was the country with the most votes with 189 votes, followed by the Gambia with 186, while the United States with 168 and Eritrea with 144 were at the bottom of the list.

“The lack of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes the word ‘election’ a mockery,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director for Human Rights Watch. “The election of serious rights violators such as Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates sends a dire signal that UN member states are not taking seriously the council’s fundamental mission to protect human rights.”

He said the Cameroonian government has cracked down on the opposition, crushed dissent and persecuted lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. Eritrean troops have committed widespread atrocities in Ethiopia’s neighboring Tigray region and other serious rights violations, and the rights situation in the UAE “remains dire” with prominent UAE human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor jailed without a mattress in near-total isolation, he said.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace a commission discredited due to the poor rights record of some members. But the new council soon faced similar criticism, including the fact that rights abusers were seeking seats to protect themselves and their allies.

Under the rules of the Human Rights Council, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographic representation.

The United States has criticized the selection of candidates with poor rights records from undisputed lists, as well as the Human Rights Council’s excessive criticism of Israel. This culminated in the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the council in June 2018.

When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in February that the Biden administration would reengage with the council, he said that Trump’s withdrawal “did nothing to encourage significant change, but created a US leadership vacuum, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used. in his favor “.

In a statement Thursday thanking UN member states for allowing the United States to serve in the 47-nation body, Blinken said the United States, along with other countries, “must reject attempts to subvert ideals about those who founded the Human Rights Council “.

He said the council has an important role in “documenting atrocities to hold wrongdoers accountable,” but added that it “also suffers from serious flaws, including disproportionate attention to Israel and membership from several states with an atrocious human rights record.” .

The 18 countries elected for three-year terms as of January 1 were Benin, Gambia, Cameroon, Somalia and Eritrea from the Africa group; India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates from the Asia group; Lithuania and Montenegro from the Eastern European group; Paraguay, Argentina and Honduras from the Latin American and Caribbean group; and Finland, Luxembourg, and the United States from the primarily Western group of nations.

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