Today the UN General Assembly elected Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine to the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2018-2020 term. With the election of Australia, Chile, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Qatar, 20 of the 47 Council members during 2018 will be members of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect.
Unfortunately, this year’s HRC election saw ‘clean slates’ in four of the five regional groups: the Latin American and Caribbean Group, Eastern European Group, Western European and Others Group, and African Group. Clean slate elections threaten to undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the HRC as they do not encourage states to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards of human rights and their full cooperation with all UN mechanisms. These are conditions set forth in UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 for all HRC members. Moreover, the fact that potential mass atrocity crimes are occurring in a number of current and newly elected HRC member states is particularly disturbing.
A strong and credible HRC can help uphold the international community’s Responsibility to Protect. Mass atrocity crimes are often the culmination of sustained human rights violations and abuses. The Human Rights Council and its mechanisms – including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Special Procedures and treaty bodies, as well as the technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – 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.
Since 2008, the HRC has referred to states’ responsibility to protect their populations in 22 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:
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.
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
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