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Robert Namer
Voice Of America
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June 10, 2024

     Russia was defeated in its bid to regain a seat in the U.N.'s premiere human rights body by a significant majority in Tuesday’s election in the General Assembly, which voted last year to suspend Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine. I would have been a joke.

     Russia was competing against Albania and Bulgaria for two seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council representing the East European regional group.  In the secret ballot vote, Bulgaria got 160 votes, Albania received 123 votes and Russia just 83 votes.  Russia has claimed that it has support from a silent majority, and even though 83 votes came from less than half the 193 U.N. member nations, there is certain to be a concern, especially by Ukraine and its Western allies, that Moscow’s support was that high.

     The only other competitive race was in the Latin America and Caribbean group where Cuba, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic defeated Peru for three seats. New York-based Human Rights Watch said Cuba didn’t deserve a place on the council because of systematic rights violations including harassment, arbitrary detention, and torture of dissidents but Cuba got the highest number of votes of the four countries – 146.

    The other closely watched race was in the Asia group where four countries – China, Japan, Kuwait and Indonesia – were candidates for four seats. Some rights groups also campaigned against Beijing and the size of the vote was closely watched.  Indonesia topped the ballot with 186 votes followed by Kuwait with 183 votes and Japan with 175. China was last with 164 votes.

     Human Rights Watch said last week that China’s rights record should disqualify it from the Human Rights Council. It pointed to last year’s report by the office of the U.N. human rights commissioner which said China’s discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the western region of Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity.  Two other regional races were also not competitive.  For the four African seats, Malawi got 182 votes followed by Ivory Coast with 181 and Ghana with 179. Burundi, whose rights record was also strongly criticized by Human Rights Watch, was last with 168 votes. 

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