By Archita Srivastava
Pakistan and Nepal have been re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council, while China has gained a small seat, indicating a steep decline in standing.
By Tuesday’s vote at the General Assembly, China received just 139 votes compared to the 180 votes it received in 2016, the last time it was elected to the Council, and its number of votes was the lowest of the 15 countries elected.
UN Director Louis Charbonneau, Human Rights Watch, tweeted that it “shows that more states are troubled by China’s abysmal record of rights.”
Saudi Arabia was defeated in the four-seat election to represent the Asian and Pacific countries with just 90 votes, seven short of the 97 needed for the election. Its reputation also showed a sharp decline since it won 152 votes in 2016 when it was last elected to the Council.
Russia, which was defeated in 2016 by two votes having received just 112 votes, returned 158 votes, while Ukraine, its regional rival, ran unchallenged to the other seat.
Pakistan obtained 169 votes in the elections conducted by secret ballot, with COVID-19 safeguards, and Nepal 150.
The two countries of South Asia are members of the Council with their current terms ending on 31 December and will now serve for three more years.
India and Bangladesh are both members of the Council last elected in 2018, beginning in 2019 and running out at the end of next year.
The downfall of Saudi Arabia was a surprise, and while its human rights record has been criticized, it is perceived to have been generally endorsed by the fact that it earned 152 votes in 2016 when it was last elected.
Despite its human rights record, in particular, its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority and the opposition of many countries and human rights organizations, China won by a smaller margin.
The critics cite the 2006 resolution, which said, “The members of the Human Rights Council shall uphold the highest standards for the promotion of human rights.”
A community of 39 countries led by Germany last week issued strong criticism of China at the UN.
The statement said that they were “gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the recent developments in Hong Kong.”
(Inputs from IANS)