In advance of the October 12, UN General Assembly’s vote to fill 18 of the 47 Human rights Council seats, a coalition of conscience — comprising the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, UN Watch, and the Human Rights Foundation — released a comprehensive report analyzing the human rights records of the candidates for election, calling on the community of democracies to expose and unmask the UN’s culture of impunity. In the words of Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights’ Chair and Founder, Professor Irwin Cotler: “Regrettably, when the UN itself ends up electing human rights violators to the human rights council, it indulges the very 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.”
Candidates in this year’s slate include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, the Philippines and Somalia, each of which have egregious human rights record – both at home and in UN voting – failing to meet the UN criteria for Council membership.
The fact that this year’s candidates have been put forward in closed slates – typically the product of backroom deals fixing an equal number of candidates and available seats – ensures the candidates’ ascension to the UN Human Rights Council essentially defeating the purpose of elections. Nevertheless, as the report affirms, UN member states have a legal right – and a moral obligation – to refrain from voting for Unqualified candidates, even if those candidates happen to be running on closed slates. As the Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, expressed: “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”. Indeed, now more than ever, democracy’s must strengthen their resolve to bolster a UN body dedicated to protecting and promoting human rights the world over which has, thus far, failed to live up to its mandate.