Saudi Arabia Loses Bid For Seat On UN Human Rights Council

China, Russia and Cuba win seats, causing a public outcry.

Saudi Arabia Loses Bid For Seat On UN Human Rights Council[Image: Alejandro Pagni/AFP]

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has failed in its bid to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the next three-year term.

China, Russia and Cuba were elected on Tuesday in a vote for the next three-year term starting on January 1, which has led to many questioning whether human rights violators should be elected to the council. Human Rights Watch has described China and Saudi Arabia as “two of the world’s most abusive governments“, while Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War has raised concerns over their membership.

And, while Russia and Cuba ran unopposed in the General Assembly election, Saudi Arabia and China fought in a five-nation race for four spots with Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Nepal. Pakistan received 169 votes, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia 90 votes, as reported by Al Jazeera.

A total of 15 countries were elected to the council made up of 47 nation states in total.

“Of course it is regrettable that countries with such terrible human rights records can be elected to the council. But that is the nature of the UN’s messy bureaucracy,” professor of international law at the University of Copenhagen, Kevin Jon Heller, tells Al Jazeera.

“There is simply no way to avoid the kinds of backroom deals that result in outcomes like this. There is simply no evidence that countries take human rights records into account when they vote.”

The vote is an indication of how Riyadh’s reputation has been steadily eroded in recent years. In recent years, authorities have rounded up hundreds of perceived political opponents, detained more than a dozen women’s rights activists, and continued mass prisoner executions. Public protests, political parties and labour unions are banned in the kingdom. Not to mention Saudi Arabia’s controversial extrajudicial killing of dissenting Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The UNHRC members are elected directly by secret ballot by the majority of the UN General Assembly. Nations elected to the council must uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.

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