(New York) – Five of the 16 countries seeking seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council have for years rebuffed efforts by the council’s human rights experts to visit their countries. The General Assembly will select countries to fill 14 vacant seats assigned to various regions in an annual election on November 12, 2013.

Three candidate countries – Algeria, China, and Russia – each have 10 or more unfulfilled requests for visits by UN experts, some dating as far back as 2000. Saudi Arabia and Vietnam each have seven outstanding requests, one of which is a decade old. Uruguay is the only candidate country with no unfulfilled visit requests.

“Countries that haven’t allowed UN experts appointed by the council to visit have a lot of explaining to do,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director. “It’s like hiring someone, then not allowing them to enter the office.”

The Human Rights Council has mandated 51 experts or expert groups to report and advise on human rights, some focusing on particular countries, and others on particular thematic issues such as torture, freedom of expression, and the right to health. These experts undertake country visits as a central part of fulfilling the responsibilities given to them by the Human Rights Council.

All 15 Human Rights Council candidates with outstanding visit requests should take immediate steps to allow visits by the experts appointed by the council.

Cuba, France, Macedonia, the Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, South Sudan, and the United Kingdom are the other candidates in this year’s election.  

All candidate countries should clarify their records regarding visits by Human Rights Council-appointed experts prior to the election. UN member countries should press candidate countries to agree to all outstanding visit requests.

Human Rights Council members are expected to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights and “fully cooperate” with the council under General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the body. On November 5, more than 40 civil society groups worldwide wrote to UN member states emphasizing the importance of this commitment.

For a list of outstanding country visit requests by UN human rights experts and working groups, please visit: