Non-democracies rise to 60% of UNHRC as China, Cuba, Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan win seats

NEW YORK, October 13, 2020—The independent human rights group UN Watch condemned today’s election of rights-abusing governments in China, Cuba, Russia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan to the UN’s top human rights body, and expressed alarm that the percentage of non-democracies on the UN human rights council now goes from 51% to a staggering 60%.

“Today is a black day for human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, the Geneva-based non-governmental human rights organization, which deemed those countries to be “unqualified” in a Joint NGO Report, on account of the regimes’ domestic human rights records as well as their voting records on UN resolutions concerning human rights.

At a UN Watch online press conference on Friday, human rights dissidents who were persecuted for their activism by China, Russia, Cuba and Pakistan joined in calling on all UN member states to oppose those countries’ bids for election to the 47-nation council.

UN Watch regretted that the regimes won support today from more than 70% of the 193-nation UN General Assembly:

• Cuba: 170 votes (88%)
• Pakistan: 169 (87.5%)
• Uzbekistan: 169 (87.5%)
• Russia: 158 (82%)
• China: 139 (72%)

“Electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” said Neuer.

“It’s logically absurd and morally obscene that the UN has elected to its top human rights body a regime that herded 1 million Uighurs into camps, arrested, crushed and disappeared those who tried to sound the alarm about the coronavirus, and suffocated freedom in Hong Kong,” said Neuer.

“Russia assassinates journalists and poisons dissidents. Cuba is a police state. Pakistan persecutes Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis for the crime of being non-Muslim minorities. And Uzbek government officials routinely torture and harass imprisoned activists,” said Neuer.

UN Watch welcomed, in an unexpected turn of events, the rejection of Saudi Arabia which received only 90 of the 97 positive votes needed for election, and the least votes of all five candidates in the Asian group, the only regional bloc to feature competition.

“Currently, 51% of UN Human Rights Council members fail to meet the minimal standards of a free democracy,” noted Neuer. “Yet because of today’s election of China, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, that figure will rise to a staggering 60% beginning on January 1, 2021 when new members officially begin their three-year term.”

UN Watch’s report also listed Bolivia, Cote d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mexico, Senegal and Ukraine as having “questionable” credentials, due to problematic human rights and UN voting record, however all won election.

Background: Today’s UNHRC Election

As shown in UN Watch’s report, Cuba and Russia had no competition in their regional groups while in the Asian regional group five candidates––including China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia—were vying for four available seats.

UN Watch filed formal protests at the United Nations, published last week as official UN documents, against the election of ChinaCubaPakistanRussia, and Saudi Arabia.

“Sadly, we failed to hear EU member states speak out and oppose the worst abusers. Silence is complicity.”

UN Watch Calls to Scrap Elections Because Criteria Are Ignored

UN Watch is proposing a major reform to the election system. “It’s clear that our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers,” said Neuer.

“That is why we now need to just scrap elections altogether, and make every country a member, as is the case in the General Assembly’s human rights committee. Non-democracies could no longer hold up their UNHRC election as a shield of international legitimacy to cover up the abuses of their regime.”

“Regrettably,” said Neuer, “the EU refused to say a word about hypocritical candidacies that only undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system. By turning a blind eye as human rights violators easily join and subvert the council, leading democracies will be complicit in the world body’s moral decline.”

“It is an insult to their political prisoners and many other victims—and a defeat for the global cause of human rights—when the UN helps gross abusers act as champions and global judges of human rights.”

“When the UN’s highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world’s victims suffer,” said Neuer.


UN Watch