NEW YORK, October 3, 2022 – Ahead of next week’s UN election of 14 nations to its highest human rights body, a coalition of non-governmental human rights groups from Europe, the U.S. and Canada today called on UN member states to oppose the election of Afghanistan, Algeria, Sudan, Venezuela and Vietnam, which were deemed “unqualified” due to their human rights records as well as their voting records on UN resolutions concerning human rights.
Abuses by those candidates are detailed in a new joint NGO report published today by UN Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, which is being circulated to UN diplomats.
The report will be launched today at a press conference next to the United Nations in New York, one week before the General Assembly votes on October 11th, featuring human rights activists and experts, including Rodrigo Diamanti on Venezuela, Mutasim Ali on Sudan, Zineb Riboua on Algeria, and Dan Hoang on Vietnam.
Because there is no competition in the African regional group, with four candidates for four available seats, Algeria and Sudan, both rated as “Not Free” by Freedom House, are almost guaranteed to win, unless member states make the exceptional move of refusing to endorse candidates running on a clean slate.
There is competition in the Latin American group, with Chile, Costa Rica and Venezuela vying for two available seats. Venezuela is a current member and is running for re-election.
“Electing Venezuela’s Maduro regime once again as a UN judge on human rights, at a time when its top leaders are accused of ordering torture and other atrocities, would be a slap in the face to millions of Venezuelans suffering from human rights abuses, as well as to millions more who were forced to flee the failed state,” said Hillel Neuer of the Geneva-based UN Watch.
Irwin Cotler, head of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, and former Canadian minister of justice, added: “Regrettably, when the UN itself ends up electing human rights violators to the Human Rights Council, it indulges the very of culture of impunity it is supposed to combat. The world’s democracies must join in the preservation and protection of the Council’s mandate, and not end up accomplices to its breach.”
Despite the lack of competition in each regional group, Neuer emphasized that there is a myth among UN diplomats that they are obliged to vote for all candidates on a clean slate.
“As made clear in our report, voting nations can and should refrain from electing rights abusers to the UN’s highest human rights body. We need to hear the US and EU member states lead the call to oppose the worst abusers. So far, at least in the public arena, they have been silent.”
The report also listed Bahrain, Bangladesh, Georgia, Maldives, Morocco and South Africa as having “questionable” credentials, due to problematic human rights and UN voting records that should be improved.
“Sadly, all signs are that the UN will disregard its own rules and principles on October 11th by rubber-stamping the election of Algeria and Sudan — even though these regimes systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens,” said Neuer, “and consistently frustrate UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others.”
“We hope that at least for the Latin American race, we will see countries reject Venezuela’s absurd candidacy.”
Currently, two thirds of the UNHRC members are non-democracies, including China, Libya, Qatar, Cuba, Eritrea, Khazakhstan and Venezuela.
UN Watch is proposing a major reform to the election system. “If our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers,” said Neuer, “then we should 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 has not said 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 will be an insult to their political prisoners and many other victims — and a defeat for the global cause of human rights — if 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.
Why in tomorrow's elections the United Nations should NOT elect #Venezuela's Maduro regime—which commits widespread atrocities against its own people, causing 5 million to flee—to the UN Human Rights Council. @RDiamanti at our @UNWatch @hrf @TheRWCHR event:https://t.co/GBPUGIv7Dm
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) October 10, 2022