UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Venezuela, South Korea and Afghanistan on Tuesday lost close races for seats at the UN’s top human rights body before the General Assembly, which faced criticism for choosing countries like Vietnam and Sudan, which they have been accused of having abysmal human rights. rights records.
The 193-member assembly voted by secret ballot to fill 14 seats on the 47-member Human Rights Council. Seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation, a rule that has regularly led to many regions submitting uncontested lists, as Africa, Eastern Europe and Western nations did this year.
Human rights groups have long criticized this practice, saying it denies UN member nations any choice of countries on the council and virtually guarantees seats for some countries with poor rights records.
In this year’s elections, the most watched contest was in the Latin American and Caribbean regional grouping, where Chile, Costa Rica and Venezuela were vying for two seats. The result saw Chile obtain 144 votes, Costa Rica 134 and Venezuela 88.
Venezuela narrowly won a seat on the Human Rights Council in 2019. Louis Charbonneau, UN director for Human Rights Watch, welcomed Tuesday’s outcome, saying the General Assembly “correctly closed the door” on Venezuela’s attempt to remain on the council.
“UN investigators have found evidence that (President Nicolás) Maduro and other officials may have been responsible for crimes against humanity against their own people,” Charbonneau said.
“A government facing these kinds of accusations does not have to sit in the highest UN human rights body. Now, UN member states must seek ways to hold accountable Venezuelan officials responsible for serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions and torture.”
The other closely watched race was in the Asia-Pacific region, where Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, South Korea and Vietnam contested for four seats. Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives and Vietnam were declared the winners.
Charbonneau said that “electing abusive governments like Vietnam to the council only undermines its credibility.”
In the uncontested regions, the assembly chose the African list of Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Sudan, the Eastern European candidates of Georgia and Romania, and the Western nations candidates of Belgium and Germany.
The 14 newly elected countries will take their seats on January 1 and serve until December 31, 2025.
The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace a commission discredited due to poor rights records of some members. But the new council soon faced similar criticism, including that rights abusers were seeking seats to protect themselves and their allies.
On April 7, the General Assembly passed a US-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council because of the rights violations it committed by invading and taking control of parts of Ukraine.
The vote, 93-24 with 58 abstentions, was significantly lower than the two resolutions the assembly adopted in March demanding an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the withdrawal of all Russian troops and the protection of civilians.
The assembly voted overwhelmingly on May 10 for the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the council.