UN elects human rights abusers to its Human Rights Council

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The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday elected a new set of representatives to serve three-year terms. In all, 18 countries were elected across the world.

For the first time in the council’s history, the five voting regions had only put forward as many candidates as there were seats available, thus removing any competition.

Countries can serve for two consecutive three-year terms on the council, which is based in Geneva.

The African representatives who made it were from three regional blocs – West, Central and East Africa: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Eritrea, Somalia and Togo.

Countries that have been widely criticised for severe human rights abuses are among 18 newly elected members of the UN Human Rights Council.

The move has however attracted the ire of political and human rights groups who insist that Eritrea, Cameroon and Somalia had no business serving on the Council given their current rights record.

Cameroon is in the middle of two security crisis – the Boko Haram war in the Far North and separatist face off in the Anglophone regions. The army has serially been reported of using highhandedness in both operations.

Soldiers have been filmed burning down villages in the Anglophone regions whiles videos have exposed arbitrary killing of unarmed civilians in the Far North region.

Following Friday’s election, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said “yet again” countries with poor human rights records had run uncontested.

The US quit the council in June, saying it made a mockery of human rights.

But its defenders say it does vital protection work around the world.

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) UN director Louis Charbonneau called the election “a mockery” in a Twitter post.

In Cameroon, HRW said government forces and armed separatists had committed “grave abuses” in the country’s Anglophone region. The government denies the allegations. In June, a spokesman dismissed similar accusations in an Amnesty International report as “filthy lies” intended to destabilise the country.

What is the UN Human Rights Council?

The UN set up the council in 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights, which faced widespread criticism for letting countries with poor human rights records become members.

The UNHRC meets three times a year, and reviews the human rights records of all UN members in a special process the council says gives countries the chance to say what they have done to improve human rights, known as the Universal Periodic Review .

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