India wins seat to Human Rights Council at United Nations with highest votes

Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Teddy Locsin Jr. and Maria Fernanda Espinosa President of the UN General Assembly. DFA handout

Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Teddy Locsin Jr. and Maria Fernanda Espinosa President of the UN General Assembly. DFA handout

The Philippines won its bid for a re-election, while Bahrain, Bangladesh and Fiji bagged the other three seats.

The aforementioned countries "systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens, and consistently frustrate UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others", lamented Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based nonprofit.

While other countries with stronger human rights records were voted in - such as Argentina, Czech Republic and Denmark - the addition of those with poor records was cited as evidence by Haley that the US was right to withdraw from the body earlier this year.

The 193-member UN General Assembly held elections here for new members to the UN Human Rights Council. "This lack of standards continues to undermine the organization", she said.

The United States withdrew from the Council earlier this year after its Permanent Representative Nikki Haley questioned its legitimacy because of the presence of several dictatorial regimes violating human rights on it.

This is the fifth time India has been elected to the Geneva-based Council, the main body of the United Nations charged with promoting and monitoring human rights.

"Electing a regime like Eritrea as a United Nations judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief", he said.

The elections had been criticized by a host of other human rights groups as well.

"If our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers, 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", Neuer said. Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet assumed the role of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September this year, succeeding Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, who had in June this year released a first ever report on Kashmir that was rejected by India.

"Instead, the Philippines has carried out vicious campaigns against United Nations officials, including against the special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and the high commissioner for human rights", the group said.

"Only this year the government of 36-year ruler Paul Biya has been found burning villages in the Anglophone areas of the country, disappearing political opponents, and summarily executing women and children, on film", he said.

The UN General Assembly is set to vote on October 12 to fill one-third of the seats on the 47-member council for the 2019 to 2021 term. One of the body's more controversial members, Venezuela, will be replaced after serving two terms on the council.

"Ultimately we don't evaluate or second guess the decisions made by member states", he said.

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