Controversy over new UN Human Rights Council members

The UN General Assembly reallocated almost a third of the seats on its Human Rights Council by vote on Tuesday. China, Russia and Cuba are now represented on the body, whose task is to monitor and promote respect for human rights worldwide. The election has provoked a storm of criticism - not least from Europe's commentators, who also have other complaints about the allocation of seats.

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France Inter (FR) /

As if criminals would become judges

The election of China, Russia, Cuba and Pakistan further weakens the Human Rights Council, columnist Pierre Haski complains on the website of radio station France Inter:

“It would be laughable if it weren't a sign of a more serious development: the growing ability of human rights enemies to form coalitions so as to guarantee impunity for themselves. In so doing they are undermining the international mechanisms for combating human rights violations. ... To be clear: the Human Rights Council has been progressively eroded by the manoeuvring of predatory states and the lack of political will on the part of those who claim to be the guardians of human rights - but are rarely exemplary themselves.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

UN making a fool of itself

The fact that states like China and Russia were elected to the council hugely undermines the United Nations' authority and credibility, the Irish Examiner complains:

“These countries, nearly all shameless, serial human rights offenders, may have the power to secure these seats but their records are an affront to the very idea. One of the best arguments for not re-electing Trump is that he is undermining the international institutions we rely on. Sadly, the UN seems more than capable of shooting itself in the foot through concessions to the most powerful and questionable regimes. This process also puts our seat in the UN Security Council in a questionable light.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Like in a dictatorship

The process by which seats on the UN Human Rights Council are allocated is a farce, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“The seats on the Human Rights Council are divided according to regional groups. Each region has a fixed number of votes. In the 14 years since the Council was founded the annoying habit has crept in - delegations in New York negotiate who is to be the candidate for each group ahead of the election. ... Democratic countries are also involved in this unsavoury job-hunting process. Only France and the UK were in the running for the two seats to be allocated in the Western European group this year. ... These are similar conditions to those in a dictatorship, where the people have to accept preselected candidates. Such elections are a farce and unworthy of the UN. It is essential that democratic countries set a good example and offer real choice.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Small countries need to be more plucky

The taz would like to see more countries running than seats are available:

“Smaller countries with good human rights practices in particular should be encouraged to run. In all five regional groups there are enough of these to fill the 47 seats on the Human Rights Council. But these countries still rarely pluck up the courage to run against the heavyweights in their respective region. ... Even in the Western Europe and other States group, for which Germany is now sitting on the Council for three years for the fourth time since 2006 and for which the UK was also elected for the fourth time on Tuesday, as well as France for the third time, more candidates and thus a wider range of options among the 29 member states in this group would be desirable.”