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Arab Countries Elected to UN Human Rights Council – Sharing with Others the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ – Along with a Whiff of Hypocrisy

posted on: Oct 19, 2022

United Nations secret ballots delivered to elect members of the Human Rights Council — Photo UN HCR

By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer

The UN General Assembly recently elected several new countries to the Human Rights Council. Arab countries Algeria, Morocco, and Sudan all secured a high number of votes. Election of some states included those with a history of violating human rights and perpetrating atrocities at home or abroad. Some country selections undermine the credibility of the HRC.

UN Members Elect 12 Countries to New Terms on the Human Rights Council Recently, the UN General Assembly elected several new countries into its fold of those who defend human rights. Elected by secret ballot to the Human Rights Council (HRC) 2022-2024 term were Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, The Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia, United Arab Emirates and the U.S.

Nations news source, UN News, reported that besides the 12 new countries, Germany and Sudan garnered second terms. South Korea and Venezuela were unsuccessful in their reelection. The HRC’s mission is “to uphold and advance human rights globally.”

UN Human Rights Council meets on the election of new and continuing members — Photo UNCHR

The UN bases its Country selection, not on its human rights records, but, rather, on geography. Thus, regional groupings from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe, and others serve as the base. Arab countries Algeria, Morocco, and Sudan all secured a high number of votes. Bahrain, seemingly voting for itself, received only one vote.

Many Member States themselves have Records of Violating Human Rights

The election of some of these states is disturbing, according to some news sources. One such source, Relief Web, reports, “The election of Cameroon, Eritrea, and the United Arab Emirates – states that have a history of violating human rights and perpetrating atrocities at home or abroad – undermines the credibility of the HRC.”

The Council defines its standards in UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251. “The fact that potential mass atrocity crimes are being perpetrated by a number of HRC member states is deeply disturbing.” The chances of fulfilling the Resolution are offset by some member violations.

Investigations of violations, periodic reviews, and technical help must fall on deaf ears of violators who are investigating themselves. Thus, “early warning of the risk factors that can lead to crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide, and provide recommendations to prevent their recurrence” are compromised by HRC’s very membership.

Despite protests from Uighur Muslims outside China, many Muslim-majority countries have remained silent — Photo Middle East Eye

Saudi Arabia gets the Boot from the Human Rights Council

It is amazing Saudi Arabia was even a member of the HRC. Its leaders’ atrocious murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khas would seem to be disqualifying. As CNBC reported, Saudi “lost a bid to keep its seat on the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, the body which describes itself as ‘promoting and protecting all human rights around the globe.’”

The rejection of Saudi from the Council was disappointing to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was counting on reelection in order to boost Saudi Arabia’s image. That was important in light of its ambition to entice investment for MBS’ bold ‘Vision 2030 Reform Program.’

Saudi’s rejection from the HRC, CNBC reported, “demonstrates the deterioration of its image on the world stage following high profile human rights scandals.” These included Khashoggi’s wanton murder and the detention of several women’s rights activists. 

Even a Saudi prosecutor said the Khashoggi murder was premeditated — Phot Haaretz

As Saudi got the boot, many human rights groups applauded the action. At the same time, they condemned the election of China, Russia, and Cuba to the HRC. These countries are “well known for crushing dissidents, arbitrary arrests and executions, and in the case of China, the detention and oppression of some 1 million Muslim Uighurs in ‘re-education camps in the country’s West.”  

The whole HRC election process, according to CNBC, “has for years been criticized as being plagued by corruption and back-door deals.” CNBC also reported one independent monitoring group’s description of the process. UN Watch described allowing China, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to serve on the UNHRC as akin to “making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade.” 

That quote about says it all for the purpose and efficacy of the UN HRC. If nothing else, the HRC is able to at least raise the flag for the cause of global human rights. That flag, however, is more like a stiff cardboard version, unable to fly freely in the open air of truth.


“UN Human Rights Council Elections for 2022-2024 and the Responsibility to Protect,” Relief Web, 10/5/2022

“12 countries elected to serve new terms on Human Rights Council,” UN News, 10/11/2022

“Saudi Arabia loses vote to stay on UN Human Rights Council; China, Russia, and Cuba win seats,” CNBC, 10/14/2022

John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.

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