'It's a black day for human rights'

Watchdog says new UNHRC members are human rights abusers

UN Watch blasts addition of UAE, Burundi, Togo and others to council; Israeli envoy: Venezuela membership ‘absurd’

The Human Rights Council in Geneva (UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)
The Human Rights Council in Geneva (UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)

The United Nations on Wednesday elected 18 countries to three-year-terms on the UN Human Rights Council. But seven of those nations were marked by a watchdog group as human rights violators whose membership on the council is highly problematic.

The addition of Venezuela to the UNHRC was slammed by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon as “absurd.”

Danon called Venezuela “the greatest ally of Iran and North Korea.” He added: “You should remember this day the next time you hear that the council condemned Israel. When a state like this — that oppresses its citizens with violence, limits freedom of the press for journalists and jails those opposed to the regime — sits on the council, it isn’t surprising that the council chooses to condemn Israel more than any other country in the world.”

But UN Watch also singled out the United Arab Emirates, Burundi, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan and Togo as new members whose human rights records raises serious questions as to the council’s legitimacy.

Envoy Danny Danon at the UN Security Council, October 22, 2015 (UN/Kim Haughton)
Envoy Danny Danon at the UN Security Council, October 22, 2015 (UN/Kim Haughton)

According to a report compiled by UN Watch along with two other groups, the Human Rights Foundation and the Lantos Foundation, the seven countries have committed various rights violations including limitations on freedom of speech, religion, press and the right to due process. Some have been accused of government corruption, discrimination against women and enabling child labor.

“It’s a black day for human rights,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

“The election of even more rights abusing regimes — on a body that already counts China, Russia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia as members — marks another severe blow to the credibility and efficacy of” the UNHRC, he said.

Other new members were Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Georgia, Germany, Kenya, Mongolia, Panama, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The council has often been accused by Israeli officials of being highly politicized and of having an anti-Israel bias. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it “cares little about the facts and less still about human rights.”

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