UN Human Rights Council upcoming elections: organizations express concern

In October 2018, the next UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting will determine which states will sit as members of the Council for the next three years. In a letter sent to the Permanent Representatives of Member States of the Human Rights Assembly, a number of NGOs and other organizations have expressed their concerns that there are several States running for election that fail to fulfill human rights standards. In addition, some countries fall short in cooperation with  the UNHRC and other UN bodies.

More specifically, the NGOs urge the Member States to “refrain from voting for candidates that blatantly fail to fulfill the Council membership standards outlined in UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 60/251”.Adding to that, the letter reads that some of the candidates for the upcoming election “have engaged in acts of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organization who play a key role to the Council’s work”. Furthermore, it expresses a concern that voting for unsuitable candidates could “undermine the Council’s credibility and institutional integrity”.

UNGA Resolution 60/251 specifically sets out the criteria and rules for electing member states of the Council in paragraphs 8 and 9. In particular, it reads that the UNGA

  1. Decides that the membership in the Council shall be open to all States Members of the United Nations; when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto […]
  2. Decides also that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights [and] fully cooperate with the Council […]

The official website of the UN Human Rights Council reads that it is the UN body responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.” Nevertheless, the website describes that for a state to  to be elected as a member of the Council, “The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.”

The election procedure orders that, “In accordance with paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 60/251, the Council shall consist of 47 Member States, which are elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly. The members of the Council serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.