UNITED NATIONS, United States — The UN General Assembly is set to elect Iceland on Friday to the seat left vacant at the Human Rights Council after the United States quit the body over what it charged was anti-Israel bias.
The assembly will hold a by-election, with Iceland the only candidate put forward by the regional grouping of countries to complete the US term until December 31, 2019.
Like the United States, Iceland has pledged to seek to reform the 47-nation Geneva-based body which monitors human rights worldwide and has the authority to set up inquiries of mass atrocities.
“The Human Rights Council stands at a critical juncture,” Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson wrote in an editorial released last week, adding that for many countries “it is time to address its shortcomings.”
“Perhaps more importantly, it is vital to overcome its perceived imbalance in its membership and focus, something that can only be addressed through reform,” he added.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley announced Washington’s withdrawal from the council last month, denouncing the body as a “protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.”
In particular, Haley had slammed the council for adopting resolutions condemning Israel, which comes under regular scrutiny by the council for its treatment of Palestinians.
To win the seat, Iceland must pick up an absolute majority of 97 votes in the 193-member assembly, and diplomats expect that the small northern country will be able to pick up enough support.
“Sometimes it can be an asset to be small and non-threatening,” Iceland’s UN Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson said at a meeting at UN headquarters on Thursday to discuss Iceland’s candidacy.