Published July 10, 2013
Some of the most oppressive regimes on Earth — possibly including Iran and Syria — are vying to serve on the United Nations' Human Rights Council, in a familiar scenario that one watchdog group says makes a mockery of the world body.
Algeria, Chad, China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam — a roster UN Watch dubbed a "list of shame" — have all announced plans to run in a November election to fill 14 seats for the 2014-16 period. Iran and Syria also are reportedly considering candidacies. The nations will be bidding to replace council members that now include equally infamous rights violators Pakistan, Venezuela and Kazakhstan, noted Hillel Neuer, executive director of the nongovernmental organization based in Geneva.
“This is a recipe for disaster,” Neuer said in a statement. “By electing massive abusers of human rights to the very body charged with protecting them, the UN is about to drop more rotten ingredients into the soup. We should not be surprised by the results.”
The council consists of 47 United Nations member states which are elected to three-year terms by a majority vote of the General Assembly’s 193 members. The seats are apportioned out by region.
UN Watch officials have already begun working with dissidents and nongovernmental organizations from China, Cuba and Russia to oppose those candidacies. All three of those countries are designated “not free” by Freedom House, a Washington-based watchdog whose annual reports track that status of civil liberties worldwide.
Another five countries that have signaled Human Rights Council candidacies — Algeria, Chad, South Sudan, Jordan and Vietnam — are also characterized as “not free” by Freedom House officials.
UN Watch has previously led successful campaigns to block bids by Syria and Sudan, but most countries win election to the body, Neuer said.
“Politics, not principles, are too often what rule in UN elections,” Neuer’s statement continued. “Candidates like Algeria, China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia have one thing in common: they systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens.”
The aforementioned countries are not only unqualified, but should be “in the dock of the accused,” Neuer said.
“It is an insult to their victims — and a defeat for the global cause of human rights — when the UN allows gross abusers to act as champions and global judges of human rights,” Neuer’s statement continued. “When the UN’s highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world’s victims suffer.”