Today, 13 October, the UN General Assembly elected Bolivia, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, France, Gabon, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan to the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2021-2023 term. With the elections of Côte d’Ivoire, France, Mexico, Senegal and United Kingdom, 16 of the 47 Council members during 2021 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 China and Russia– states that have a history of violating human rights and perpetrating atrocities at home or abroad – 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, including Cameroon, Eritrea and Venezuela, is deeply disturbing. Saudi Arabia, which is responsible for possible war crimes in Yemen, failed to get elected to the HRC today.
Since 2008, the HRC has referred to states’ responsibility to protect their populations in 54 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.