Saudi Arabia failed in its bid to join the UN Human Rights Council for the next three-year term, while China and Russia were elected to the Geneva-based body.
Other countries elected to the 47-member council yesterday in the secret ballot which took place at the UN headquarters in New York were: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Malawi, Cuba, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, France and Britain.
Senegal, Nepal, Pakistan, Ukraine and Mexico were re-elected for a second three-year term. Council members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.
The result for Saudi Arabia will be seen as a severe blow to the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s efforts to improve the country’s image after his role in the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.
Saudi Arabia received 152 votes when it was last elected in 2016 to be a council member between 2017 and 2019, however it only received 90 votes yesterday.
Speaking on Riyadh’s failed bid to join the council, Human Rights Watch UN Director, Louis Charbonneau, said it was “a welcome reminder of the need for more competition in UN elections. Had there been additional candidates, China, Cuba and Russia might have lost too.”
Human rights activists also opposed the election of Russia and China to the council. The NGO UN Watch said: “It’s logically absurd & morally obscene the UN elected to its top human rights body a regime that herded 1 million Uighurs into camps & crushed those who tried to sound the alarm on the coronavirus,” in reference to Beijing.
Ahead of the vote, Human Rights Watch urged General Assembly members to not vote for China and Saudi Arabia, “two of the world’s most abusive governments”, they also cited Russia’s war crimes in the Syria conflict as a reason why it would be “another highly problematic candidate”.
Yesterday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The election of China, Russia, and Cuba to the UN Human Rights Council validates the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Council in 2018 and use other venues to protect and promote universal human rights.” The US left the council following remarks made by then-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley describing it as “a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias”.