Pakistan re-elected to UN rights body
China, Russia win seats as Saudis lose
Islamabad: Pakistan has been re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council despite opposition from various activist groups. Meanwhile, China, Russia and Cuba won seats on the premiere human rights body however Saudi Arabia lost the contest.
Among the five candidates from the Asia-Pacific region vying for four seats in the UN’s premiere human rights body, Pakistan secured the highest number of votes, the Foreign Office said.
In a secret-ballot voting in the 193-member UN General Assembly on that race, Pakistan secured 169 votes, Uzbekistan received 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia lost the race with just 90 votes.
Under the Human Rights Council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation. Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council was all but decided in advance because all the other regional groups had uncontested slates.
Last week, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the US and Canada called on UN member states to oppose the election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them unqualified.
Russia and Cuba, running unopposed, also won the seats.
Pakistan is currently serving on the HRC since January 1, 2018. With its re-election, Pakistan will continue as a member for another three-year term commencing on January 1, 2021.
Since the HRC’s establishment in 2006, this is the fifth time that Pakistan has been elected to the United Nations’ premier body on human rights.
The Foreign Office said that “international community once again reposed confidence in Pakistan, recognising its contribution to the national and global human rights agenda and strong credentials as a consensus builder in the council.”
“Pakistan remains firmly committed to upholding, promoting and safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms for all and will sustain its efforts towards ensuring that the HRC’s work is guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, dialogue and cooperation,” it said.
“In line with Pakistan’s commitment, we will prioritise advancement of tolerance, respect and constructive engagement in the HRC,” the Foreign Office said.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, the organization founded by Khashoggi, said despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin on public relations “to cover his grotesque abuses, the international community just isn’t buying it.”
“Unless Saudi Arabia undertakes dramatic reforms to release political prisoners, end its disastrous war in Yemen and allow its citizens meaningful political participation, it will remain a global pariah,” Whitson said.
Under the Human Rights Council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.
Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council was all but decided in advance because all the other regional groups had uncontested slates.
Four countries won four Africa seats: Ivory Coast, Malawi, Gabon and Senegal. Russia and Ukraine won the two East European seats. In the Latin American and Caribbean group, Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia won the three open seats. And Britain and France won the two seats for the Western European and others group.
“Saudi Arabia’s failure to win a seat on the Human Rights Council is a welcome reminder of the need for more competition in U.N. elections,” Human Rights Watch’s U.N. director, Louis Charbonneau, said after the results were announced, “Had there been additional candidates, China, Cuba and Russia might have lost too,” he said.
Notably, Human Rights Watch pointed to an unprecedented call by 50 U.N. experts on June 26 for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China,” warning about its mass rights violations in Hong Kong and Tibet and against ethnic Uighurs in the Chinese province of Xinjiang as well as attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and government critics. Their call was echoed by over 400 civil society groups from more than 60 countries.
Of the four winners of seats in the Asia-Pacific group, China got the lowest vote.
The rights group said Russia’s military operations with the Syrian government “have deliberately or indiscriminately killed civilians and destroyed hospitals and other protected civilian infrastructure in violation of international humanitarian law,” and noted Russia’s veto of U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria, including blocking Damascus’ referral to the International Criminal Court.
The Geneva-based Human Rights Council can spotlight abuses and has special monitors watching certain countries and issues. It also periodically reviews human rights in every U.N. member country.
Created in 2006 to replace a commission discredited because of some members’ poor rights records, the new council soon came to face similar criticism, including that rights abusers sought seats to protect themselves and their allies. (with inputs from PTI, AP)