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MARCH 2021

Saudi Arabia Re-elected to UN Human Rights Council


Saudi Arabia has been successfully re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), while Russia has lost an election to the organization for the first time since its existence.

Saudi Arabia Re-elected to UN Human Rights Council

For the first time, since the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was established in 2006, Russia has lost an election to the organization. Its place has been engaged by Croatia. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been successfully re-elected, despite human rights organizations’ criticism.

Each year, a third part of the 47 places of the UNHRC body, which are distributed on a regional basis, is re-elected. The Russia’s three-year term had finished, and the country was fighting for two available seats for Eastern Europe against Croatia and Hungary.

Croatia received votes of 114 of the 193 member states, while Russia was selected only by 112 members.

“It was a very close vote and very good countries competing, Croatia, Hungary. They are fortunate because of their size, they are not exposed to the winds of international diplomacy. Russia is very exposed. We’ve been in the UNHRC for several years, and I am sure next time we will stand and get back in,” Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia was selected as one of the representatives of the Asian region for the next three years, alongside Japan, Iraq and China.

Criticism from non-governmental human rights organizations, claiming that the UNHRC body has been hijacked by oppressive regimes looking to drive their own plans, has been ignored.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia was condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for “an appalling record of violations” in Yemen, where Riyadh has already killed up to 4,000 civilians during its campaign of air bombardment on Houthi rebels since 2015.

Last month, Saudi Arabia blocked an outside inquiry into the campaign and placed the responsibility of investigating human rights abuses on the exiled Yemeni government, allies of Riyadh.

In addition, 157 executions, the highest number in two decades, were carried out in the country last year. Women in Saudi Arabia do not have equal status before the law and autonomy, while critics of the regime are often detained.

Ahead of this year’s vote, Refugees International and Human Rights Watch, as well as other 78 nongovernmental organizations signed a petition, which asked the voting countries to “question seriously whether Russia’s role in Syria which includes supporting and undertaking military actions which have routinely targeted civilians and civilian objects renders it fit to serve on the UN’s premier inter-governmental human rights institution.” Russia called the petition “dishonorable” and “cynical,” and said that it was motivated by politics, but not by concern for human rights. Nongovernmental organizations also accused Egypt, China, Rwanda, Iraq and Cuba, which were selected as one of the representatives to the UNHRC, saying that these countries do not deserve a place on the UNHRC.

“The non-election of Russia shows that the nations of the world can reject gross abusers if they so choose,” said executive director Hillel Neuer. “This makes the election of Saudi Arabia, China and Cuba even more preposterous.”



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