Today the UN General Assembly elected Armenia, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Namibia, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Sudan and Venezuela to the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2020-2022 term. With the elections of Germany, Japan, Marshall Islands, Netherlands and Republic of Korea, 20 of the 47 Council members during 2020 will also be members of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect in Geneva.
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 (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.
The election of states that have a history of violating or abusing human rights 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 occurring in a number of HRC member states is deeply disturbing. For example, despite the fact that Venezuela has undermined the promotion and protection of human rights both domestically and internationally, it was elected to the HRC today. Ongoing systematic violations in Venezuela – authorized at the highest level of the government – may amount to crimes against humanity and are currently subject to an investigation by an HRC-mandated body, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela.
Since 2008, the HRC has referred to states’ responsibility to protect their populations in 46 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.