Ban Ki-Moon addresses the opening of the Human Rights Council’s current session in Geneva on Sept. 10 (photo credit: UN photo)
Nov. 7, 2012 – Among those running for 18 available seats on the UN Human Rights Council in Monday’s election is the United States, whose newly re-elected president, Barack Obama, decided to embrace the controversial body after his 2008 victory, arguing that Washington could better change and influence from inside than from outside.
Former US president George W. Bush boycotted the Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, but Obama reversed course and the US was elected to a three-year term in 2009.
The 47-nation Council has seen its influence grow in the past two years. With the Security Council deadlocked on taking action on Syria, the Human Rights Council appointed a commission of inquiry that’s investigating and documenting allegations of human rights abuses and possible war crimes in the country over the past 19 months. It also suspended Libya’s membership during Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown and prevented Damascus from vying for a seat in 2012, as well as blocking Sudan’s bid.
The Council has won praise too from pro-Israel groups – who’ve criticized the body for its disproportionate focus on the Jewish state – for appointing a human rights investigator on Iran in March 2011 and it has also won plaudits from Human Rights Watch for addressing human rights situations in Guinea, Myanmar and North Korea.
The US is one of five countries vying for three seats available in the Western European and Other States category. The other four candidate countries in the group are Germany, Greece, Ireland and Sweden.
The Western group is the only one with a competitive election as the other categories (Asia, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Eastern Europe) are running on a pre-arranged clean slate.
Countries ending their terms this year include China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Each country is elected to a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms.
Among the US allies who will join the Council in 2013 are Japan, South Korea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Estonia.
A list of all candidate countries and the current composition of the Council is here.
– Denis Fitzgerald
UPDATE Nov 12: US reelected to Council with 131 votes along with Germany, 127, and Ireland, 124 – both serving for first time. Greece, 77, and Sweden, 75, defeated.