GENEVA, May 17 — Three days before the UN chooses 15 new member states to its Human Rights Council, human rights groups today said Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua failed to meet the membership criteria, while the qualifications of India, Indonesia, Philippines and Burkina Faso were “questionable.” Click here for full report PDF — Executive summary below.
The voting recommendations were submitted today in a report to the New York missions of UN member states by the Geneva-based UN Watch, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Directorio, and Initiatives for China, which is headed by former Chinese prisoner of conscience Yang Jianli. The rights groups will be appearing at a UN briefing on Thursday, together with dissidents, to lobby for an improved council membership. Current members include non-democracies such as China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia, Bahrain and Pakistan.
“Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua have poor records in respecting the basic human rights of their own citizens,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, “and they have consistently voted the wrong way on UN initiatives to promote and protect the human rights of others.”
“As an observer state in recent UN human rights council sessions, Nicaragua strongly praised the governments of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, attempting to shield them from scrutiny. It will be an insult to their victims — and a defeat for the global cause of human rights — if the UN now elects Nicaragua as one of the council’s 47 voting members.”
The report also called on India, Indonesia, Philippines and Burkina Faso to pledge improvements prior to the Friday vote. The report documents how India last year refused to support UN resolutions for human rights victims in Iran, Burma, and North Korea, and failed to join other democracies and human rights groups in opposing a UN resolution prohibiting criticism of Islam, which experts said restricted freedom of speech.
The report found that 10 of the 17 candidates are qualified: Austria, Benin, Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy, Peru, and Romania.
EVALUATION OF CANDIDATES FOR 2011-2014 MEMBERSHIP
ON THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Click here for full report PDF
As submitted to UNGA member states on May 17, 2011. To be presented in a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters, New York, May 19, 2011.
This report assesses each candidate country’s record of domestic human rights protection and its UN voting record, based on the criteria for UN Human Rights Council membership established by UNGA Resolution 60/251 (2006). We find that only 10 out of 17 candidate countries are qualified. Three candidates have poor records and are not qualified to be Council members. Four countries fall somewhere in between, with qualifications that are questionable.
Not Qualified: Congo, Kuwait*, Nicaragua
Questionable: Burkina Faso, India, Indonesia, Philippines
Qualified: Austria, Benin, Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy, Peru, Romania
The absence of competition in three out of the five regional lists calls into question the very premise and rationale of the election. Nevertheless, UNGA member states can—and should—refrain from casting their votes for countries that are not qualified. Candidate countries with questionable credentials should, at a minimum, be asked to commit to redress the shortcomings—in their human rights record and their UN voting records—as identified in this report.
* All reports say that Kuwait will run instead of Syria. However, as of May 17, the UN website still lists Syria as a candidate, and Kuwait’s name is yet to appear: http://www.un.org/en/ga/65/meetings/elections/hrc.shtml