Dec 1, 2020 - World

Expected Biden push on human rights sparks tussle over UN council

Fiji's nominee, Nazhat Shameem Khan. Photo: Alice Chiche/AFP via Getty

A last-minute nomination to lead the UN Human Rights Council appears to be part of an effort by authoritarian countries to preempt the incoming Biden administration's efforts to rally international attention to human rights abuses, the NYT reports.

Background: The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the council in 2018, citing anti-Israel bias, and removed human rights as a core consideration in U.S. foreign policy.

  • But Biden is expected to both re-engage with international forums and emphasize human rights — a major concern for countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
  • According to the NYT, those countries are believed to have helped engineer a twist three days before nominations for the council's presidency closed.

Driving the news: Fiji seemed to have the post sewn up. Then Bahrain, a close Saudi ally, unexpectedly put itself forward.

  • Between the lines: "Fiji has backed investigations into reported abuses in Venezuela, Belarus, Syria and Yemen — the sort of country-specific resolutions that have been fiercely denounced by China and others," the NYT notes.
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