“The absence of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes a mockery of the word ‘election,'” said Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch. “Electing serious rights abusers like Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates sends a terrible signal that U.N. member states aren’t serious about the council’s fundamental mission to protect human rights.”
Charbonneau urged states not to vote for unqualified candidates.
Countries that join the council are expected to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” both at home and abroad.
The council has a mixed reputation. Diplomats say it has produced some important and strong reports on war crimes in places like Syria, and spotlights domestic abuses in North Korea, Iran and Myanmar, among others. But it is also frequently criticized for its focus on Israel and the inclusion among its members of several countries with poor rights records of their own, like China, Russia and Pakistan.
The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the dysfunctional U.N. Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded. The administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush opted against seeking membership, and the United States did not join until 2009 when the administration of then-President Barack Obama said it sought to improve the council by working from within it. Washington withdrew in 2018 under the Trump administration