GENEVA, July 4—In extraordinary scenes Friday, Choi Kyong-lim — the Korean Ambassador currently serving as the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council — suspended the 32nd Session of the Council after a group of countries led by Russia dragged its feet over the appointment of the new UN expert on executions. South Korea, Netherlands, the UK, Latvia and Germany all suggested that the appointment should go ahead.
As is customary, the session ended with the President’s announcement of his decision on who would fill the vacancies left by outgoing UN experts. However, Russia was opposed to the appointment of Agnes Callamard, a French human rights defender and former executive of NGO Article 19, to the position of Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Backed by a collective of other nations, including China, Cuba and Venezuela, Russia insisted that any decision on the appointment of experts must be taken by consensus.
Council procedure allows for the expression of disagreement in these cases — countries can call a vote to signal their opposition to a decision and, with enough support, block it. But when asked by the President whether he could understand from Russia’s opposition to the appointment that they would like to call a vote on the matter, Russia demurred, saying “No you may not understand that the council will adopt the list today, because my delegation continues to object.”
After considerable delay — during which the Chinese delegate told the President that “my suggestion to you is to end this meeting so they [delegates of member states observing Ramadan] can go eat” — the President was finally required to suspend the session at 10:30pm, as UN staff needed to leave. The Council will resume on Friday, July 8, in order to allow delegates to resolve the issue and adopt the final report.