January 29, 2016
The 2007 Human Rights Council elections took place yesterday (the full votes are here). Human Rights Watch discusses the UN General Assembly’s rejection of Belarus for a seat on the Human Rights Council and hopes that this could be a starting point for more competitive elections to the Council.
It has always been interesting how the composition of the Council, so often filled with human rights violators of various kinds, is then used as a symbol that all human rights work by the UN is bad or hypocritical, especially when the Council repeatedly focuses on Israel and ignores others. This is while most human rights groups acknowledge the Council as having membership issues and often focusing on political targets; but they seek to do something about it, rather than simply declaring invalid any human rights claims that the Council may make. Perhaps more constructive views will eventually take hold, but the tension in the Council is always there between more “inclusive”/”representative” membership and having morally ”worthy” countries serving (and who decides this); as well as issues of when a flawed body may sometimes make valid statements and whether each statement should be taken on its own merit or rejected outright because of flawed membership and often-flawed priorities. But human rights groups are right that there is little else to work with, and often chose to try and improve the body even as its legitimacy is so often (and perhaps increasingly) called into question. If it is a lost cause is unclear. In any event, it will be interesting to see how the new Council works and if it is capable of any much-needed change. Perhaps the voting was a positive step, but any conclusions remain to be seen.