US and Venezuela among the 18 nations to win seats on UN human rights body

The United States was reelected Monday to a second term on the United Nations Human Rights Council, a 47-member panel that has come under U.S. criticism for giving seats to nations with questionable democratic credentials.

America beat out Greece and Sweden for one of three open spots among the panel's Western group of nations. The other regions – Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe – put up uncontested slates, drawing protests from some human rights groups.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The United States is pleased to have been elected by the United Nations General Assembly to a second term on the Human Rights Council,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement after the election. “We thank the countries that voted for us in what was a highly competitive race among several qualified Western candidates that are all strong champions of human rights.

“We pledge to continue to work closely with the international community to address urgent and serious human rights concerns worldwide and to strengthen the Council. While much hard work remains to be done, especially ending the Council’s disproportionate and biased focus on Israel, we look forward to cooperating with other Council members to continue to address human rights concerns and to ensure that the Council fully realizes its promise.”


The other countries elected to the 18 open seats Monday include Venezuela, whose rumored candidacy drew a sharp rebuke from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) this summer. She has introduced legislation that would require the UN to switch its funding mechanism from an assessed basis to a voluntary basis, so countries like the United States could stop funding what she called “discredited organizations and initiatives, such as the Human Rights Council.”

“The Obama Administration should stop making excuses for the UN Human Rights Council, which remains as dictator-friendly as ever, despite three years of U.S. membership and funding,” Ros-Lehtinen said in July. “However you want to spin short-term tactical victories, the long-term trajectory of the Council is still pro-rogue regimes and anti-human rights.”

The Better World Campaign, which advocates for U.S. at the UN, applauded America's reelection.

“The Obama Administration should be applauded for leading by example and participating in a genuinely competitive HRC election, risking a loss against a strong slate of fellow countries,” the campaign's executive director, Peter Yeo, said in a statement. “Hopefully, other countries will be emboldened to run on competitive slates in future HRC elections.”

The countries elected Monday, according to UN Watch, and the number of votes they garnered are:

Africa group

Cote d’Ivoire 183

Ethiopia 178

Gabon 187

Kenya 180

Sierra Leone 182

Latin America group

Argentina  176

Brazil  184

Venezuela  154

Western group

Germany  127

Ireland  124

USA  131

Asia group

Japan  182

Kazakhstan  183

Pakistan  171

South Korea  176

UAE  184

Eastern Europe group

Estonia  184

Montenegro  182