The United Nations’ top human rights body welcomed several new members Monday with disturbing track records of abuses that flout the organization’s own membership criteria.
The U.N. General Assembly elected 15 countries to its Human Rights Council, a 47-member organization responsible for the “promotion and protection” of global human rights.
Among the new members were three countries that watchdog groups singled out as “gross abusers” of their citizens’ human rights: Qatar, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization, said those countries have poor human rights records and should have been disqualified from sitting on the council.
“Sadly, the UN disregarded its own rules and principles by electing governments who violate the human rights of their own citizens, and who consistently vote the wrong way on UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others,” UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said in a statement.
Critics said the Democratic Republic of Congo was a particularly egregious choice for the human rights council in light of ongoing civil conflict there. Congolese security forces have cracked down on government opponents in the country’s southern region, leaving more than 5,000 people dead and at least 1 million others displaced from their homes, according to Human Rights Watch. Government agents routinely use rape and extrajudicial killings against the civilian population, Amnesty International said in its latest report.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the election of Congo, which received 151 yes votes in the general assembly, “calls into serious question the General Assembly’s methods of selecting membership in the Human Rights Council.”
“The HRC cannot endure many more blows to its credibility before it is rendered absolutely meaningless,” Haley said in a statement.
Among the slate of four Asian countries selected, Qatar and Pakistan are serial human rights violators, human rights accountability organizations said.
Amnesty International has documented widespread abuses of workers in Qatar who are building the country’s facilities for the 2022 World Cup in Doha. The group says many migrant workers are subjected to forced labor in conditions that amount to modern-day slavery.
The Pakistani government has come under fire for its abusive treatment of political prisoners, journalists and especially women, who receive little protection from rape or domestic violence under the country’s judicial system.
In a report on the candidates for the Human Rights Council, UN Watch said “criminal prosecutions for rape are rare and rape victims face many obstacles from the police and court system in seeking justice, including abuse or threats by the police,” while “Pakistani women also suffer from Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, being used as chattel to settle disputes, forced sequestration to keep property within the family and many other forms of discrimination and abuse.”
UN Watch’s Neuer said the three countries should not have been considered for the Human Rights Council, given the organization’s requirement that members “shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
“The U.N. electing Qatar, Congo and Pakistan as world judges of human rights is like a asking the foxes to guard the chickens,” Neuer said. “It’s absurd, immoral and offensive.”
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