Venezuela, South Korea and Afghanistan do not join the Human Rights Council

UNITED NATIONS (HPD) — Venezuela, South Korea and Afghanistan on Tuesday lost hotly contested races for seats on the U.N. Human Rights Council leadership voted on by the General Assembly, which was lambasted for electing instead to countries such as Vietnam and Sudan, which have been accused of having a terrible record in respecting individual guarantees.

The 193-member Assembly secretly voted to fill 14 seats on the 47-member Human Rights Council. Seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation, a rule that has seen many regions run uncontested as Africa, Eastern Europe and Western countries this year.

Human rights groups have long criticized this practice, saying it denies UN member states the ability to elect countries to the Council and virtually guarantees seats for some countries with poor records of respecting basic rights.

In this year’s election, the most closely watched contest was the Latin American and Caribbean regional group, in which Chile, Costa Rica and Venezuela competed for two seats. Chile got 144 votes, while Costa Rica got 134 and Venezuela 88.

Venezuela narrowly won a seat on the Human Rights Council in 2019. Louis Charbonneau, UN director for Human Rights Watch, celebrated Tuesday’s outcome, saying the General Assembly “rightly closed the door” on Venezuela’s attempt to remain in the Council.

“UN investigators have found evidence that (President Nicolás) Maduro and other officials may be responsible for crimes against humanity against their own people,” Charbonneau said.

“A government facing this type of accusation has no place in the main UN human rights body. Now UN member states should seek ways to hold accountable those Venezuelan officials responsible for serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and torture.”

Another race that was also closely watched was in the Asia-Pacific region, in which Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, South Korea and Vietnam competed for four seats. In the end, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives and Vietnam won.

Charbonneau lamented that “electing abusive governments like Vietnam to the Council only undermines its credibility.”

In the undisputed regions, the Assembly elected the candidates for the African region —Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Sudan—, for Eastern Europe —Georgia and Romania— and the candidates for the Western countries: Belgium and Germany.

The 14 newly elected countries will take their seats on January 1 and will serve until December 31, 2025.

The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace a commission discredited by some members’ poor record on human rights. However, the new council soon faced similar criticism, such as that rights abusers sought to seize seats to protect themselves and their allies.

On April 7, the General Assembly passed a resolution introduced by the United States to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council for the basic rights violations it committed by invading and taking control of parts of Ukraine.

The vote, with 93 in favor and 24 against and 58 abstentions, was significantly lower than those of two other resolutions that the Assembly adopted in March to demand an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the withdrawal of all Russian soldiers and protection for the civilians.

The Assembly overwhelmingly approved on May 10 the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the Council.

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