UN criticised over new human rights council members

United Nations

United Nations

The vote to give the Philippines a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was not without critics from the United Nations (UN) itself.

The Human Rights Council has 47 member states, with 18 seats due to fall vacant this year.

Elections were held by secret ballot in the 193-member General Assembly on Friday, although the number of candidates for all the five regions matched the vacancies making it a formality.

Countries needed a minimum of 97 votes to get elected to the Council.

Aside from the Philippines, the other member-states elected by the General Assembly were Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, India, Italy, Somalia, Togo, and Uruguay.

"This (the UNHRC seat) signals the world has accepted India's credentials as a sentinel of human rights".

The Philippines was granted another three-year term, from 2019 to 2021, in the council after 165 of the 192 member-states voted for it.

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The election of Bangladesh to the council is recognition of the progress the country has made in different human rights indices, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN Masud Bin Momen thinks. India reportedly got highest number of votes among all the other candidate nations. The US left partly because it saw the group as a forum for hypocrisy about human rights, though also because Washington says the council is anti-Israel.

This is the fifth time India has been elected to the Geneva-based Council, the main body of the United Nations charged with promoting and monitoring human rights.

Countries can be elected for only two consecutive terms and India took a year's break when its term ended in 2017.

The body is tasked with promoting and monitoring human rights. Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet assumed the role of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September this year, succeeding Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, who had in June this year released a first ever report on Kashmir that was rejected by India.

"We thank and commend the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the States that supported our country's bid, for affirming the Philippines' brand of human rights advocacy under the Duterte administration as truly responsive to our people's needs and aspirations for a better and more dignified life", Panelo said.

Given that there were five nations vying for five seats in the Asia Pacific category, India's election to the Council was all but certain.

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