Limited competition in elections for the UN Human Rights Council undermines membership standards set for the body by the UN General Assembly, Human Rights Watch has said.
Although the General Assembly elected 18 countries to the Council Monday, only three faced challengers in their bids for a seat.
"To call the vote in the General Assembly an 'election’ gives this process way too much credit,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
“Until there is real competition for seats in the Human Rights Council, its membership standards will remain more rhetoric than reality.”
Seats on the Council are allotted by regional group. Only the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) put forward more candidates than the number of seats available.
Germany, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, and the US vied for three seats, which ultimately went to Germany, Ireland and the US.
The other countries elected in the other regional groups are Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, and Sierra Leone from the Africa Group; Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from the Asia Group; Estonia and Montenegro from Eastern European Group; and Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela from the Latin America and Caribbean Group.
Human Rights Council members are expected to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights and “fully cooperate” with the Council under General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the body.
A group of NGOs that work on improving the Council had called on some of the countries seeking seats - Ethiopia, Pakistan, the UAE and Venezuela - to take specific steps to improve their human rights records.
Said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development: “Pakistan, for one, should show up at the Council having demonstrated tangible improvements in the prevention of discrimination and attacks against religious minorities, the protection of human rights defenders and journalists, and ending enforced disappearances.”