UN could and should do more to bring Human Rights Council members into line.

As a new group of countries took their place as council members of the world’s most recognised and authoritve Human Rights body. I feel the need to highlight the question, ‘Do they deserve a space?’

While I would always argue ‘yes!’ as any movement of an oppressive state towards Human Rights should be celebrated and recognised as a step towards equality.

Over next three years, those sitting on the United Nations Human Rights Council will include the likes of:

  • Philippines, where thousands, guilty and innocent have been killed in the name of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs”.
  • Eritrea, found by recent a UN inquiry team to have committed multiple crimes against humanity.
  • Bahrain, which routinely retaliates against human rights activists who raise concerns about government abuses. Often with violence and false imprisonment.

These states will join current Human Rights violators and abusers China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia on the UNHRC council.

While no country can claim a perfect rights record, it is also true that many nations seeking a spot on the council genuinely want to improve respect for human rights, both at home and globally.

Others campaign for a seat on the respected council specifically to block criticism of themselves and to weaken the UN’s ability to address rights abuses and violations around the world. Even in some cases to push their own ‘Anti-Rights’ agendas.

Burundi, for instance, whose term ended in 2018, voted against every country resolution, including on its own situation. Therefore effectively allowing a weakened council.

China has regularly and pesistantly used its position in the council to try and dismiss critical independent scrutiny of its own human and envrionmental rights crackdown, and to vote against resolutions condemning some of the worst international crime against humanity, including instances in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar.

The UN General Assembly resolution that created the council has stated that members will be subject to increased scrutiny. It did so at appointing these countries by requiring council members to uphold the “highest standards” of human rights, to “fully cooperate” with the council, and to undergo review of their rights record during their three-year term.

It is long overdue. It is now the time for the council to uphold these humanitarian standards. For example, that the council should investigate:

  • China’s mass arbitrary detention of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.
  • Saudi Arabia to account for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ongoing detention and torture of women’s rights activists.
  • UK’s neglect of disabled, elderly and ex-service personnel.
  • The three new member council states above…

The Human Rights Council can not be a place where abusers and violators come to seek shelter. It should be an immensely uncomfortable council seat for rights violators; a place where they know they will be held to a higher standard and put under the spotlight for their abuses.

Im not suggesting in anyway expelling or refusing entry for these counties. Rather the position is used for the genuine examination, recognition and advancement of rights in these counties. -Upholding the values of the Human Rights Declaration and council.