News / Africa

Records of Some New UN Rights Council Members Criticized

Overview of the U.N. Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva. (File)Overview of the U.N. Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva. (File)
Overview of the U.N. Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva. (File)
Overview of the U.N. Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva. (File)
Margaret Besheer
Human rights groups have criticized the election by the United Nations General Assembly of several countries with spotty rights' records to the U.N. Human Rights Council.  Of the 18 countries elected Monday to the Geneva-based body, human rights advocates say only about a third are qualified.

The 47-member Human Rights Council is often the target of criticism for its focus on Israel and its election of some members who are accused of having spotty human rights records.

Seats on the council are allocated according to regional groupings. This year, the only group putting forward a competitive slate was the Western and Others Group, which saw Ireland, Germany and the United States beat Greece and Sweden for three open seats.

The United States won a second consecutive term to the rights council, after in the past choosing not to be a part.  U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Washington is better positioned and more likely to strengthen the body by continuing to be a part of it.

“We made the decision in 2009 to seek a seat on the Human Rights Council because the United States believes that we must be at the forefront of speaking out against human rights abuses and speaking up in favor of those who are suffering and living under the grip of the world’s cruelest regimes," said Rice.

The winners of the council’s other vacant seats were predetermined within their regional groups, which put forward only enough candidates to fill their empty seats.

Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya and Sierra Leone will fill the five vacant African seats. Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates will fill the five open Asia-Pacific seats.  Estonia and Montenegro will hold the two Eastern European seats while Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela take the three seats of the group of Latin American and Caribbean states.

Rights groups have expressed doubts about whether at least seven of these countries - Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela - have adequate human rights records of their own.

Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Philippe Bolopion criticized the lack of competition and the questionable records of some of the council’s new members.

“It is certainly the case of Pakistan, which, for example, needs to do much more to end abuses, including to protect religious minorities or repeal the blasphemy law. It’s also certainly the case of Venezuela which falls short of member standards and needs to, for example, restore judicial independence or release Judge [Maria Lourdes] Afiuni. And it is also the case of the UAE, which needs to end rights abuses in the country. including the arbitrary detention of 63 prisoners," said Bolopion.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan said rights groups are welcome to criticize his country’s bid, saying that is their right.  He added that Pakistan attaches importance to all human rights.

“All human rights - whether they are civil or political or economic, cultural or social. There is no hierarchy, all these rights are part of an integral whole; they can’t be fragmented," said Khan.

The five African countries selected to sit on the Human Rights Council have all come under some form of criticism as well.  HRW's Bolopion singled out Ethiopia’s poor rights record.

“The Ethiopian government should take this opportunity to take meaningful steps, for example, to respect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly or to start holding its security forces to account, as well as maybe start really cooperating with the Human Rights Council it is now set to join," he said.

The new members will serve three year terms beginning in January.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Sam Amsterdam
November 13, 2012 2:36 PM
Critics have again tried to spread falsehoods about the Republic of Kazakhstan even as it is honored by its fellow governments at the United Nations. Yesterday, Kazakhstan was overwhelmingly elected by the General Assembly as a new member of the UN’s Human Rights Council. We are extremely honored by the appointment and see it as international acknowledgement that we have been improving our human rights record and as an incentive for us to continue to make even more progress. Kazakhstan is an aspiring democracy that lives under the rule of law and takes media freedoms seriously. Erroneous comments only make it more difficult for Kazakhstan to continue to make progress on all of these fronts and should be rejected and ignored by right-thinking people around the world. - Altay Abibullayev, Spokesperson of the MFA and Chairman of the International Information Committee (MFA), Republic of Kazakhstan.

by: Mimi from: US
November 13, 2012 3:52 AM
As always, "non-profit" HRW targets developing countries, while ignoring U.S. record of 2.5 Million people in prison (70% poor minorities), 1 Million more than China.

by: sj from: usa
November 12, 2012 10:15 PM
what about greece they have the worst human right abuse record that anyone else in europe to this day they reefuse to give macedonians albanians and turks living within its borders even the most basic human rights

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs