Next week, the UN General Assembly
decides who should be on the Human Rights Council. On May 12th, the General Assembly
is expected to elect as many as 18 new members – more than a third of the
council's total membership.
some groups are calling on UN members to block certain countries from getting a
seat on the council. Freedom House and UN Watch say some of the countries
seeking membership have poor or questionable human rights records.
Schriefer, advocacy director for Freedom House, which is based in Washington,
expressed her concerns to VOA about next week's vote.
biggest concerns are [that] countries with some of the worst human rights
records in the world will get re-elected to the Human Rights Council, further
discrediting an institution that's already shown that it hasn't performed very
well in terms of promoting and supporting human rights," she says.
House conducts an evaluation that categorizes countries based on their human
rights records, grading them as qualified, not qualified and questionable.
actually listed seven countries in the not qualified category, but I would say
there's even a range within that. The ones that we're most concerned with are
those that really get the absolute lowest scores that Freedom House gives out
on an annual basis in terms of human rights. And those three countries would be
China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia," she says.
other countries, including the African countries of Cameroon and Djibouti, also
received poor scores, but not quite as low as the above mentioned.
are countries that I would put in sort of the top tier of the countries that
are not qualified. Cameroon, actually of the two, has a slightly worse human
rights record.… Although interestingly, it has a better voting record looking
at important human rights resolutions and votes at the UN. Djibouti has a
slightly better human rights record, but a slightly worse voting record at the
United Nations.…Overall, they're just not qualified to sit on the council," she
says membership of some of these countries on the Human Rights Council has
prevented all the facts about the treatment of their citizens from being
revealed. She says, "These countries not only reflect badly on the council
because they've got poor domestic records of supporting human rights, but they
tend to also of course to act (to prevent) the council from exposing human
rights abuses in their own countries and in other countries as well."
example she gives is Sudan. "Many of these countries have voted against taking
any strong resolutions on Sudan. If you look at other countries that fall in
our category of the worst – countries like Belarus… Chad…Equatorial
Guinea…Somalia…Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe, not a single resolution is being passed to
censor these countries," she says.
says that the countries have been "very effective in convincing other countries
to vote along with them. Yes, they could be blocked. Certainly if countries
with good human rights records would counter that and be more effective in
terms of getting those sort of swing countries to vote along with them.… But it
takes a tremendous amount of work."
such as Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Jordan and Bangladesh have "mixed" human
not the lowest performers in terms of their human rights. Most of these
countries fall in…in Freedom House's terminology…the partly free category of
countries. And they've had mixed records," she says.
Freedom House lists the countries
found qualified to sit on the Human Rights Council as the United States,
Belgium, Hungary, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway and Uruguay.