The United Nations General Assembly rejected Belarus’ bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council today, upholding the principle that the human rights records of council members do matter, Human Rights Watch said today. Despite the Belarus defeat, today’s election was marred by a lack of competition within three of the five UN regional groups, which only put up as many candidates as there were seats available.

Human Rights Watch joined more than 40 nongovernmental organizations from around the world to oppose the Belarus candidacy to the council, the world’s leading inter-governmental human rights body. Council members are required both to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights, and to “fully cooperate” with the council. Belarus does neither, and has blocked the UN independent expert on Belarus from even entering the country.

“Voting ‘no’ to Belarus sends the message that abusive governments have no place on the UN Human Rights Council,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “This election shone a spotlight on Belarus’ appalling human rights record, and should deter other such countries from running for the Human Rights Council in the future.”

Belarus must now open itself to monitoring by UN human rights experts, who it has repeatedly blocked. “Today’s decision can be a source of hope and support for civil society in Belarus,” Hicks said.

Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina gained the two seats up for election in the Eastern European Group.

Human Rights Watch joined Egyptian and other human rights groups to oppose Egypt’s bid for a seat on the council, but Egypt was elected on the African Group’s “closed slate,” with just four countries standing for four seats. Torture in Egypt by security services and police is widespread. The UN’s independent expert on torture has been unable to visit the country, despite repeated requests to do so.

“The defeat of Belarus should be only the starting point for more competitive elections to the Human Rights Council,” said Hicks. “We need a real choice of candidates, to make it easier to defeat countries that don’t respect human rights.”

Today’s election filled the 14 open seats on the 47-member council, which meets for at least three sessions a year in Geneva. The council will meet again next month, when it is expected to make decisions on a new system for reviewing the human rights records of all 192 UN members.

For more on the no-on-Belarus campaign, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/legacy/no-on-belarus/

For more on the UN Human Rights Council, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2006/09/15/human-rights-council