UN WATCH ENDORSEMENTS FOR ELECTIONS TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

UN WATCH ENDORSEMENTS FOR ELECTIONS
TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

The list of endorsements below is followed by an explanation of the methodology used and a discussion of key facts regarding the May 9th UN General Assembly election of members to the Human Rights Council.

Candidates from the African Group (for 13 seats)

 Country   Pledge   Freedom House
Rating
RSF
Ranking
Voting
Record
 UN Watch
Endorsement
 Algeria  Yes Not Free 129 Negative No
 Angola Not Free 76 Negative No
 Cameroon  Yes Not Free 83 Negative No
 Djibouti  Yes Partly Free 121 Negative No
 Gabon  Yes Partly Free 102 Mixed No
 Ghana  Yes Free 66 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
 Kenya  Yes Partly Free 109 Negative No
 Mali  Yes Free 37 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
 Mauritius  Yes Free 34 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
 Morocco  Yes Partly Free 119 Negative No
 Nigeria  Yes Partly Free 123 Negative No
Senegal  Yes Free 78 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
 South Africa Free 31 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
 Tanzania Partly Free 74 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
 Tunisia  Yes Not Free 147 Negative  No
 Zambia  Yes Partly Free 90 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach

Candidates from the Asian Group (for 13 seats)

 Country  Pledge   Freedom House
Rating
RSF
Ranking
Voting
Record
 UN Watch
Endorsement
Bahrain  Yes Partly Free 123 Negative No
Bangladesh  Yes Partly Free 151 Negative No
China  Yes Not Free
*Worst of the Worst*
159 Negative No
*Threat to Council*
India  Yes Free 106 Negative Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
Indonesia  Yes Free 102 Negative  No
Iran  Yes Not Free 164 Negative  No
*Threat to Council*
Iraq Not Free 157 Negative No
Japan  Yes Free 37 Positive  Yes
Jordan  Yes Partly Free 96 Negative  Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
Kyrgyzstan  Yes Partly Free 111 Negative  No
Lebanon  Yes Partly Free 108 Negative  No
Malaysia Partly Free 113 Negative  No
Pakistan  Yes Not Free 150 Negative  No
Philippines  Yes Partly Free 139 Negative  No
Saudi Arabia  Yes Not Free
*Worst of the Worst*
154 Negative  No
*Threat to Council*
South Korea  Yes Free 34 Mixed Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
Sri Lanka  Yes Partly Free 115 Mixed No
Thailand  Yes Partly Free 107 Negative No

Candidates from the Eastern European Group (for 6 seats)

 Country Pledge Freedom House
Rating
RSF
Ranking
Voting
Record
 UN Watch
Endorsement
 Albania  Yes Partly Free 62 Positive Yes
 Armenia  Yes Partly Free 102 Mixed No
 Azerbaijan  Yes Not Free 141 Negative No
 Czech Republic  Yes Free 9 Positive Yes
 Georgia  Yes Partly Free 99 Positive Yes
 Hungary  Yes Free 12 Positive Yes
 Latvia  Yes  Free 16 Positive Yes
 Lithuania  Yes  Free 22 Positive Yes
 Poland  Yes Free 53 Positive Yes
 Romania  Yes  Free 70 Positive Yes
 Russian Federation  Yes Not Free
*Worst of the Worst*
138 Negative No
*Threat to Council*
 Slovenia  Yes  Free 9 Positive Yes
 Ukraine  Yes  Free 112 Positive Yes

Candidates fom GRULAC (for 8 seats)

 Country  Pledge  Freedom House
Rating
RSF
Ranking
Voting
Record
   UN Watch
Endorsement
Argentina  Yes Free 59 Positive  Yes
Brazil  Yes Free 63 Mixed Yes–if commits to
positive voting approach
Costa Rica Free 41 Positive  Yes
Cuba  Yes Not Free
*Worst of the Worst*
161 Negative  No
*Threat to Council*
Ecuador  Yes Partly Free 87 Positive Yes
Guatemala  Yes Partly Free 86 Positive Yes
Honduras Partly Free 76 Positive Yes
Mexico  Yes Free 135 Positive Yes
Nicaragua  Yes Partly Free 68 Positive Yes
Peru  Yes Free 116 Positive Yes
Uruguay  Yes Free 46 Positive Yes
Venezuela  Yes Partly Free 90 Negative No

Candidates from WEOG (for 7 seats)

 Country  Pledge  Freedom House
Ranking
RSF
Ranking
Voting
Record
 UN Watch
Endorsement
 Canada  Yes  Free 21  Positive Yes
 Finland  Yes  Free 1  Positive Yes
 France  Yes  Free 30 Positive Yes
 Germany  Yes  Free 18 Positive Yes
 Greece  Yes  Free 18 Positive Yes
 Netherlands  Yes  Free 1 Positive Yes
 Portugal  Yes  Free 23 Positive Yes
 Switzerland  Yes  Free 1 Positive Yes
 United Kingdom  Yes  Free 24 Positive Yes

Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council was created by  Resolution 60/251 of the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006, and will begin its work on June 19, 2006.  The Council replaces the UN Commission on Human Rights. To read more about why the Commission needed reform and the process that led to the creation of the Council, click here and here.

Election Requirements

The election of the first Council members takes place on May 9, 2006.  To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UN General Assembly (an absolute majority).  In electing Council members, the resolution provides that General Assembly members “shall take into account the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.”  An additional consideration ought to be whether the given candidate country can meet the obligations of Council membership, which include (a) “to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and (b) to “fully cooperate with the Council.”

The Council will have 47 seats, divided among the UN’s five regional groups as follows: 13 from the African Group, 13 from the Asian Group, 6 from the Eastern European Group, 8 from the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), and 7 from the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).

Candidates and Their Qualifications

As of May 1, 2006, by our count, 68 states have declared their candidacies for the Council.  Some have done so by writing to the General Assembly secretariat; these countries are listed on the  General Assembly website.  Some have done so in other ways, such as through diplomatic notes or through the press.

The above list of candidates is compiled from these various sources.  Where a candidate has made a voluntary pledge in support of its candidacy, a link to the pledge is provided.  For each candidate, we also list the following information, which we believe to be highly relevant to assessing a country’s human rights record and commitment:

  • Its rating in Freedom House’s most recent global survey,  Freedom in the World 2006.  This annual study measures political rights and civil liberties worldwide and ranks countries as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. Where applicable we also noted the Not Free countries designated as the world’s most repressive by Freedom House in it 2005 special report,  The Worst of the Worst.
  • Its ranking in the 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index by Reporters Sans Frontières. This annual evaluation of global press freedom lists countries from
    best (1 – a rank for which 7 countries tied in 2005) to worst (167). Freedom of the press is not only a key indicator of freedom of speech—the lifeblood of
    democracy—but also a vital check against the power of the state, and therefore a principal safeguard for individual liberty and human rights.
  • Its voting record on resolutions against egregious human rights violations in the 2005 session of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and, if the country was a member, the 2005 session of the Commission on Human Rights. (Voting scorecards, compiled by the Democracy Coalition Project, are available here.) These resolutions pertained to Belarus, Congo, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. We deemed each country’s voting record to be positive, negative, or mixed based on its willingness to criticize these countries, which are some of the world’s worst human rights violators.

Methodology

Based on our evaluation of these factors, UN Watch has decided to endorse, conditionally endorse, or reject each Human Rights Council candidate.

If it is to be credible and effective, and avoid the mistakes of the Commission, the Council needs a quality membership—countries with strong records of and credible commitments to respecting and promoting human rights. Resolution 60/251—not to mention the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – requires no less. In our view, the ideal candidates for Council membership are those rated Free by Freedom House, ranked in the top third (56 and above) of the Reporters Sans Frontières index, and with a positive UN human rights voting record.

In today’s regionally-grouped UN, however, the Council will not be made up only of countries that meet our ideal. We still believe in striving for the ideal, but we recognize this reality. We also recognize that Council membership could encourage a less-than-ideal country to make real human rights improvements. Therefore, we endorsed some countries that, although not our ideal, we deemed to be of acceptable quality, considering all of the circumstances. For example, we might endorse a country that was rated Partly Free, if it had a good RSF press freedom ranking, a positive human rights voting record, and/or a strong and credible voluntary pledge in support of its candidacy.

We also gave a conditional endorsement to certain candidates. This category generally includes countries that are Free but have negative or mixed human rights voting records. These countries tend to base their UN votes on regional or developing world loyalty rather than on their democratic values, and as a result too often ally with nondemocracies to protect egregious rights violators. For example, in the 2005 Third Committee, India, Mali and South Africa all voted with the mostly non-democratic African Group to block consideration of the human rights crisis in Darfur—despite having pledged, as leading members of the Community of Democracies and the UN Democracy Caucus, to work with other democracies to promote democratic values and human rights at the UN and in the international community. The new standards for Council membership require members to put the promotion and protection of human rights before UN politics. As these countries are otherwise qualified, we will endorse them if they pledge to do so when they vote in the Council.

We did not endorse any country rated Not Free by Freedom House. We consider such countries unqualified for Council membership under Resolution 60/251’s standards. In addition, we believe that certain of the Not Free countries pose a particular threat to the Council’s legitimacy. The membership of some of the world’s most egregious and systematic human rights violators poisoned the Commission, and would do the same to the Council. Of the current candidates, we view China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia as falling into this category.

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