Member state flags fly outside the United Nations headquarters during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. This year's annual gathering of world leaders at U.N. headquarters will be almost entirely "virtual." Leaders have been asked to pre-record their speeches, which will be shown in the General Assembly chamber, where each of the 193 U.N. member nations are allowed to have one diplomat present. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

China and Russia win seats on UN rights council, Saudis lose

China and Russia win seats on UN rights council, Saudis lose

TANZANIA, Tanzania — China, Russia and Cuba won seats on the U.N.’s premiere human rights body Tuesday despite opposition from activist groups over their abysmal human rights records, but another target, Saudi Arabia, lost.

Russia and Cuba were running unopposed, but China and Saudi Arabia were in a five-way race in the only contested race for seats on the Human Rights Council.

In secret-ballot voting in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on that race, Pakistan received 169 votes, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia just 90 votes.

Despite announced reform plans by Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch and others strongly opposed its candidacy saying the Middle East nation continues to target human rights defenders, dissidents and women’s rights activists and has demonstrated little accountability for past abuses, including the killing of Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two years ago.

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. “But the addition of these undeserving countries won’t prevent the council from shining a light on abuses and speaking up for victims. In fact, by being on the council, these abusers will be directly in the spotlight.”

Charbonneau earlier criticized U.N. member states, including Western nations, saying: “They don’t want competition. … Essentially these are backroom deals that are worked out among the regional groups.”

Last week, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the United States and Canada called on U.N. member states to oppose the election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them “unqualified.”

“Electing these dictatorships as U.N. judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

The Geneva-based rights organization published a 30-page joint report with the Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights evaluating candidates for council seats. The report lists Bolivia, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Malawi, Mexico, Senegal and Ukraine — all winners — as having “questionable” credentials due to problematic human rights and U.N. voting records that need improvement. It gave “qualified” ratings only to the United Kingdom and France.

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.

The United States announced its withdrawal from the council in June 2018 partly because it considered the body a forum for hypocrisy about human rights, though also because Washington says the council is anti-Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday’s election of China, Russia and Cuba and last year’s election of Venezuela — “countries with abhorrent human rights records” — further validate the U.S. withdrawal from the council. He said the U.S. has taken its own actions to punish “human rights abusers in Xinjiang, Myanmar, Iran, and elsewhere.”

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan called on all democracies on the council “to immediately resign from this shameful and anti-Semitic body.”

Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said when the newly elected members start their three-year terms in January, 119 of the 193 UN member States will have served on the council, reflecting its diversity and giving the council “legitimacy when speaking out on human rights violations in all countries.”

“If a State thinks they can conceal the human rights violations they may have committed, or escape criticism by sitting on the Human Rights Council, they are greatly mistaken,” Gomez said.

___

Jamey Keaten contributed to this report from Geneva

Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cilantro and Chive was voted in the top three in no less than 13 different categories in the 2020 Best of Lacombe Readers Choice Awards. Photo by Megan Roth/Lacombe Express
Cilantro and Chive opening in Red Deer

There will now be two Cilantro and Chive locations. The restaurant announced… Continue reading

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal on October 24, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian provinces hardest hit by COVID-19 reach sobering milestones

MONTREAL — The Canadian provinces hardest hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s election results show a divided province with Liberal… Continue reading

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

WASHINGTON, Wash. — When people in the United States talk about moving… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Most Read