Oct 13, 2020 - World

China and Russia elected to UN Human Rights Council

Protester holding Stop the Uyghur Genocide sign
Protester in London demonstrating against China's campaign of human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims. Photo: Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several of the 15 countries elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday have themselves been condemned for serious human rights abuses, including China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Uzbekistan.

The big picture: The intergovernmental body of 47 countries is responsible for "the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe." The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the Human Rights Council in 2018, citing alleged bias against Israel and a pattern of allowing corrupt and repressive regimes to serve in its ranks.

What they're saying: “Electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the independent rights group UN Watch.

Between the lines: The 15 vacant seats were distributed between five regions, but only one region — Asia-Pacific — was contested. Most countries within regions typically reach private deals to ensure that candidates can stand unopposed, according to The Guardian.

  • "Uncompetitive UN votes like this one make a mockery of the word ‘election,'" Human Rights Watch's UN director Louis Charbonneau said in a statement.
  • "Regional slates should be competitive so states have a choice. When there’s no choice, countries should refuse to vote for unfit candidates."

Zoom in: Saudi Arabia fell short of the necessary vote threshold to be elected, almost exactly two years after the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • China, which is carrying out a campaign of demographic genocide against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, earned the least number of votes of any state elected — 139, down from 180 votes when it stood for a seat in 2016.
  • 60% of the next term of UN Human Rights Council members do not meet the minimum standards of a free democracy, according to UN Watch.

Full list of newly elected countries: Bolivia, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, France, Gabon, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the U.K.

Go deeper: More countries join condemnation of China over Xinjiang abuses

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