New York, May 7, 2007 — The non-governmental organizations UN Watch and Freedom House issued a joint evaluation of the candidates for the United Nations Human Rights Council, in advance of the election on May 17. Of the 15 candidates, the human rights groups rated four as well qualified (Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, and Slovenia), four as not qualified (Angola, Belarus, Egypt and Qatar) and seven as having questionable qualifications (Bolivia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Philippines, and South Africa). The evaluation was based on the candidates’ records of protecting human rights at home and of promoting human rights at the UN.
“It is appalling that authoritarian regimes like Mubarak’s Egypt and Lukashenko’s Belarus are running for—and given the body’s group structure, are likely to be elected to—the UN Human Rights Council,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel C. Neuer. Although members are supposed to be chosen by the UN General Assembly based on their human rights records and commitments, each candidate competes not against all of the others but only against the ones from the same UN regional group. Of the five regional groups in the Council, only one—the Western group—currently has more candidates running than available seats. “We would like to see more qualified candidates come forward before May 17, and we urge all human rights supporting states to not vote for the authoritarian regimes that are currently running,” continued Mr. Neuer.
At the same time, UN Watch also released its latest report , “Dawn of a New Era? Assessment of the UN Human Rights Council and its Year of Reform.” This report assessed the 47-member Council, as it nears the end of its first year, against the benchmarks set by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan: is the body comprised of members with solid records of human rights commitments, and has it eschewed the politicization and selectivity that so discredited its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights?
“Sadly,” said Mr. Neuer, “we had to answer ‘no’ to both questions. The Council still includes some persistent violators, including China, Cuba, Russia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, and it so far has ignored the world’s worst abuses while repeatedly condemning only Israel. It also is moving in the direction of eroding, rather than strengthening, the UN’s existing independent human rights mechanisms.”