Commentary and Newsletters

Anne Bayefsky

The Human Rights Council Elections: Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

The UN has now elected the Human Rights Council - its new lead human rights agency. Elected by the General Assembly, members include some of the world's worst human rights abusers: China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, Cuba, Azerbaijan and Russia. After the election, the length of the terms was selected by lot. China, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, Cuba, Azerbaijan and Russia all got the maximum three years. A very large number, twenty-one of the forty-seven elected states, fail to embody the minimum characteristics to be ranked "free" by Freedom House.

The election was conducted within the framework of the UN's five regional groups. The African and Asian regional groups hold 55% of the seats in the new Council. Because 16 of the 26 members allotted to the Asian and African groups are not fully democratic, the election hands the balance of power in the new Council to states which are not full democracies.

The face of UN "reform."