The U.N.'s election today of serial abusers of human rights —Venezuela, Mauritania, Libya and Sudan — to its highest human rights body drew sharp criticism from the non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, which is based in Geneva at the seat of the 47-nation Human Rights Council.
“Electing the oppressive Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro to a human rights council is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “It’s absurd, immoral and offensive.”
“Sadly, today the UN General Assembly disregarded its own rules by electing regimes that violate the human rights of their own citizens, and which consistently vote the wrong way on UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others,” said Neuer.
In a detailed study released last week, UN Watch found that four of the newly elected members — Venezuela, Mauritania, Libya, and Sudan — had poor records on respecting human rights at home and in their UN votes, thereby failing to qualify according to the UN’s own membership criteria.
The council already counts China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, DR Congo, Eritrea, Qatar, Somalia, Cameroon and Pakistan among its members.
The UN General Assembly today also elected Armenia and Brazil, both of whom were deemed “questionable” by UN Watch, due to their problematic human rights records or UN voting records.
“Regrettably, at least 7 EU states helped elect slaveholding Mauritania (which won 172 out of 193 votes), a country that has 500,000 slaves. Not one EU member state spoke out against the election of dictatorships. By turning a blind eye as even more human rights violators join and subvert the council, leading democracies are complicit in the world body’s moral decline,” said Neuer.
Neuer proposed two major reforms to the election system:
End Secret Ballot: “Vote trades flourish in the darkness of the UN’s archaic secret ballot system for elections. We need to make elections public, as is the case with all other kinds of UN voting. Sunshine is always the best disinfectant.”
Scrap Elections Altogether: “Given that our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers,” said Neuer, “then we should just scrap elections altogether, and make every country a member, as is the case at the General Assembly’s human rights committee. At least that way Venezuelan ambassadors around the world could no longer hold up their UNHRC election as a shield of international legitimacy to cover up the abuses of their regime.”