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NGOs urge opposition to election of rights abusers at UN

GENEVA, October 11, 2019 - Ahead of next Thursday's UN election of 14 nations to its highest human rights body, a coalition of non-governmental human rights groups from Europe, the U.S. and Canada today called on UN member states to oppose the election of Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Mauritania, Sudan & Venezuela, which were deemed "unqualified" due to their human rights records as well as their voting records on UN resolutions concerning human rights.

Abuses by those candidates are detailed in a new 28-page joint NGO report published today by UN Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, which is being circulated to UN diplomats.

Because there is no competition in the African regional group, with four candidates for four available seats, Libya (a failed state), Mauritania (which has 500,000 slaves) and Sudan (whose leader until April was wanted for genocide) are almost guaranteed to win, unless member states make the exceptional move of refusing to endorse candidates running on a clean slate.

"Electing Venezuela's Maduro regime as a UN judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief," said Hillel Neuer of the Geneva-based UN Watch, which has led a social media campaign to stop Venezuela from winning.

Irwin Cotler, head of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, and former Canadian minister of justice, added: “Regrettably, when the UN itself ends up electing human rights violators to the Human Rights Council, it indulges the very of culture of impunity it is supposed to combat. The world’s democracies must join in the preservation and protection of the Council’s mandate, and not end up accomplices to its breach.”

Despite the lack of competition in each regional group, Neuer emphasized that there is a myth among UN diplomats that they are obliged to vote for all candidates on a clean slate.

"As made clear in our report, voting nations can and should refrain from electing rights abusers to the UN's highest human rights body. We need to hear the EU's Federica Mogherini and member states lead the call to oppose the worst abusers. So far, they have been silent."

The report also listed Armenia, Benin, Brazil & Moldova as having "questionable" credentials, due to problematic human rights and UN voting records that should be improved.

"Sadly, all signs are that the UN will disregard its own rules and principles on Friday by rubber-stamping the election of Libya, Mauritania and Sudan — even though these regimes systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens," said Neuer, "and consistently frustrate UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others."

"We hope that Costa Rica's late but welcome entry into the race in the Latin American group will see countries reject Venezuela's absurd candidacy."

UN Watch is proposing a major reform to the election system. "If our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers," said Neuer, "then we should just scrap elections altogether, and make every country a member, as is the case in the General Assembly's human rights committee. Non-democracies could no longer hold up their UNHRC election as a shield of international legitimacy to cover up the abuses of their regime."

"Regrettably," said Neuer, "the EU has not said a word about hypocritical candidacies that only undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system. By turning a blind eye as human rights violators easily join and subvert the council, leading democracies will be complicit in the world body's moral decline."

"It will be an insult to their political prisoners and many other victims — and a defeat for the global cause of human rights — if the UN helps gross abusers act as champions and global judges of human rights. When the UN's highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world's victims suffer," said Neuer.

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