UN Human Rights Council Elections for 2023-2025 and the Responsibility to Protect

UN Human Rights Council Elections for 2023-2025 and the Responsibility to Protect

11 October 2022

Today, 11 October, the UN General Assembly elected Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Romania, South Africa, Sudan and Viet Nam to the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2023-2025 term. With the elections of Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Germany, Morocco, Romania and South Africa, 23 of the 47 Council members during 2023 will be “Friends of the Responsibility to Protect” – having appointed an R2P Focal Point and/or joined the Group of Friends of R2P in New York and Geneva.

The Human Rights Council and its mechanisms and procedures – including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), HRC-mandated investigative mechanisms, special procedures and treaty bodies, as well as the technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – all play an essential role in providing early warning of the risk factors that can lead to crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide, and provide recommendations to prevent their recurrence.

The election of Sudan– a state that is currently implicated in excessive and lethal force against peaceful protesters and that has a history of perpetrating atrocities – undermines the credibility of the HRC. States elected to the HRC are supposed to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards of human rights, including their full cooperation with all UN mechanisms. These are conditions set forth in UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251. The fact that potential mass atrocity crimes are being perpetrated by a number of HRC member states at home or abroad – including Cameroon, China, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates – is also deeply disturbing.

Since 2008, the HRC has referred to states’ responsibility to protect their populations in 71 thematic and country resolutions. But more work needs to be done to turn early warning into timely preventive action. In this regard, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect encourages all HRC members to:

    • Ensure the HRC responds in a timely and effective manner to atrocity situations:
      • Actively support the adoption of resolutions addressing serious violations of human rights;
      • Support HRC-mandated investigative mechanisms;
      • Mandate the Council’s mechanisms and procedures to conduct country-specific atrocity risk assessments, including by utilizing the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes;
      • Where an imminent risk of mass atrocity crimes is detected, hold a special session to help mobilize appropriate international diplomatic action.
    • Make use of the Irish Principles, which lay out independent and objective considerations to guide decisions on whether and when the HRC should respond to a country-specific situation.
    • Improve the link between human rights and peace and security:
      • Ask the UN Secretary-General to bring to the attention of the Security Council relevant decisions and reports by the HRC;
      • Encourage the UN General Assembly to ensure information collected by special procedures and international investigative mechanisms, including those mandated by the HRC, is relayed to the Security Council in a timely manner;
      • Encourage the Security Council to request regular briefings by OHCHR and other relevant HRC mechanisms and procedures;
      • Promote continued dialogue on human rights and the prevention of mass atrocities.
    • Make better use of the UPR to detect early warning signs of potential mass atrocity crimes:
      • In preparation for your national report, consider what action your government has taken to uphold its primary responsibility to protect all populations on your territory;
      • Use the UPR to ask relevant questions regarding the ratification and implementation of core human rights treaties, as well as regarding risk factors related to systematic violations and abuses of human rights.

The Global Centre has compiled profiles on each of the newly elected Human Rights Council members. These provide a basic overview of their commitment to prevent mass atrocities by protecting and promoting human rights.

October 2022 R2P HRC Elections

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


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Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

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