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International Concerns: (Venezuela elected to UNHRC)

Venezuela wins seat on UN human rights council despite opposition – (Venezuela elected to UNHRC)

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In News:

  • Venezuela has been elected to United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Venezuela elected to UNHRC
UNHRC Logo

News Summary:

  • Venezuela has been elected to UNHRC despite facing opposition from US and rights groups, as well as competition from Costa Rica.
  • Venezuela was facing accusations of corruption, human rights violations and rigging of 2018 presidential election against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
  • Several human rights groups have documented the extra-judicial killings by security forces.
  • Recently, UNHRC had set up an international fact-finding mission to document violations in Venezuela, including torture and thousands of summary executions.

Recent election to UNHRC:

  • UNGA elected members to 14 Human Rights Council members from five regional blocs.
  • Germany, the Netherlands, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia and Sudan were elected uncontested.
  • Brazil, Venezuela and Costa Rica were competing for 2 seats on the Council.
  • Brazil was re-elected for a second three-year term with 153 votes.
  • Armenia, Poland, Indonesia, Marshall Islands, South Korea and Japan won seats by beating competition in their regional blocs.
  • Iraq and Moldova were unsuccessful in getting elected.

About: United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

  • United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.
  • Headquarter of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.
Formation:
  • The Council was created by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2006 by resolution 60/251.
  • It replaced the former Commission on Human Rights, which operated from 1946 to 2006 as it was criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.
  • The Council’s mandate is:
    • Promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
    • Address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon.
Membership:
  • The Council is made of 47 Member States.
  • They are elected by the majority of members of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) through direct and secret ballot by all 193 members of the United Nations.
  • UNGA considers the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
  • The Council’s Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution.
  • Seats are distributed as follows:
    • African States: 13 seats
    • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
    • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
    • Western European and other States: 7 seats
    • Eastern European States: 6 seats
  • Members serve for three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
  • The Bureau of the Council consists of five peopleone President and four Vice-presidents – representing the five regional groups.

Significance:

  • The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as:
    1. Freedom of association and assembly,
    2. Freedom of expression,
    3. Freedom of belief and religion,
    4. Women’s rights,
    5. LGBT rights, and
    6. The rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
  • The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states.
  • This allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations to the attention of the UN.
  • Also, it looks into serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
  • UNHRC promotes accountability for such violations and counter impunity.
  • The council has also set up commissions of inquiry to report on human rights violations in countries including Syria, North Korea, Burundi, Myanmar and South Sudan.
  • The Council works in close cooperation with Governments, regional organizations, national human rights institutions and civil society.

Criticism of UNHRC:

  • Most candidate States were elected unopposed from their regional groups. This assured them a seat on the Council irrespective of their rights records.
  • The member states have been accused of serious human rights violations.
  • This defeats the very purpose for which the UNHRC was created to replace the former Commission on Human Rights.
  • For example, in 2018, Philippines and Eritrea were elected as members despite being criticized for violent crackdown on drugs and persecution of government critics, respectively.
  • The Council is also criticized of political bias against Israel.
  • The Council has resolved more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world combined.
  • US withdrawal:
    • The United States withdrew from the council in 2018 citing two reasons:
      1. Chronic bias against Israel,
      2. Absence of reform.

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