The United Nations recently held a secret ballot vote to allow 14 countries to join the Switzerland-based Human Rights Council (HRC). The council is a global institution within the UN ecosystem and includes 47 members with the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. The HRC was founded in 2006. Over the years, it has been the subject of much controversy, primarily for the states involved in the council, many of which have been accused of violating human rights.
UN Adds to the Human Rights Council
As of January 1, 2020, Libya, Mauritania, Sudan, and Venezuela and others will serve on the Human Rights Council with three-year terms. The 14 nations were selected based on geographical representation, using a formula of four seats for African states, four seats for Asia-Pacific states, two seats for Eastern European states, two seats for Latin American and Caribbean states, and two seats for Western European and other states. However, what made the vote controversial was the fact that four countries have been accused of human rights abuses for years, even by UN officials.
The UN proceeded with the vote anyway. Critics say that the process is a sham and the results are a shame – alluding to the states already on the list with questionable records, including China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. The organization Human Rights Watch averred that heightened attention to these states’ ongoing human rights abuses is more critical than ever moving forward. Philippe Bolopion, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that “electing serial rights abusers like Venezuela betrays the fundamental principles it set out when it created the Human Rights Council.”
Other nations to join the council include Poland, Armenia, Germany, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands, Namibia, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Korea.
Serial Human Rights Abusers
So, what are these four states being accused of?
Earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, produced a report highlighting the abuse of power by the Venezuelan government. It covered extrajudicial killings, torture, and the withholding of food and medical supplies.
In the aftermath of the 2011 invasion of Libya to overthrow Moammar Gaddafi, the country collapsed. Today, the North African state and region has been destabilized: People are being enslaved, women are forced into prostitution, and extreme poverty has devastated the nation.
The way security forces in Mauritania are alleged to treat detainees and prisoners has been considered inhumane. Independent human rights organizations determined in 2011 that authorities would use torture – sleep deprivation, sexual violence, physical assault, and electric shocks – as a form of interrogation. Also, many inmates in prison were not provided with fair public trials.
The UN has estimated that 300,000 civilians in the Sudanese region of Darfur were killed between 2003 and 2010, a horrific act encouraged by the government. Female, LGBT, and religious persecution are commonplace in Sudan.
Past Expiry Date?
Critics of the United Nations typically point to these instances of the global body being a superfluous and perhaps corrupt institution, one that is devoid of integrity and logic. The UN does itself no favors by adding names considered to be serial human rights abusers to a council that specializes in the very thing it is supposed to preserve and protect: The dignity of man.