Human Rights Council elections for 2016-2018 term
On 28 October, the General Assembly will elect 18 new members to the Human Rights Council. Seats on the Council are allotted by regional grouping, with 5 seats available for the African Group, 5 for the Asia Pacific Group, 2 for Eastern Europe, 3 for Latin America and the Caribbean, and 3 for the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG). Of these groups, only the Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe are expected to be contested elections, with 8 candidates running for 5 seats in Asia Pacific Group and 3 candidates for the 2 available seats allotted to the Eastern European Group.
The Human Rights Council is tasked with addressing situations of systemic human rights violations, including those that may constitute crimes under international law. The Council has established fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry which gather evidence and make recommendations pertaining to accountability. As such, it is important that the candidates for the Council be scrutinized on their records of justice and accountability in cases of human rights violations, as well as their programs for the promotion of human rights.
Ahead of the elections, candidates are encouraged to submit pledges detailing their intended actions to promote and protect human rights both in international and national policies. According to General Assembly Resolution 60/251 which established the Council, these pledges, as well as the human rights records of the candidates, should be taken into account by the Assembly when casting votes.
Candidates also had the chance to share their plans and commitment to human rights at a panel event held in June 2015, which was organized by Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights. Of the 22 candidates, only 8 participated in the hearings: Belgium; Georgia; Germany; Kyrgyzstan; Panama; South Korea; Slovenia; and Switzerland. Gender equality and the plight of migrants and refugees were top concerns during the session. The use of torture; LGBTI rights; protection of human rights defenders; and the rights of indigenous populations were also addressed by the candidates present.
Because the number of candidates matches the number of open seats in most of the regional groups, the only two contested elections are for seats in the Asia Pacific and Eastern European Groups. Of the candidates in these groups, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the Republic of Korea are seeking re-election for a second term. With the exception of Hungary, Mongolia, Thailand, Laos and Pakistan, all of the states in the contested groups have submitted pledges to the General Assembly.
The majority of candidates this year are also Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This status should be taken into consideration by the General Assembly when voting in the elections as evidence of a country’s commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights, given that accountability for grave and systemic violations is of critical importance in adequately responding to such violations. Of the current candidates, only Switzerland and Belgium explicitly mentioned the issues of accountability and combatting impunity in their pledges.
To have a critical mass of HRC members also be parties to the Rome Statute could also demonstrate a commitment to ending impunity for violations of international human rights law. However, as was illustrated by the 2013-2014 year on the Security Council, when 11 out of 15 members were ICC members, state party status does not necessarily translate to effective Council action on accountability or effective interaction with the ICC on situations of mutual concern. Thus, it is important to articulate an expectation that all countries elected will uphold the commitment to accountability for human rights violations and ensure that the HRC addresses the issue of ending impunity—through actions such as ensuring the consideration of accountability recommendations in country-specific resolutions as well as thematic—and contribute towards the establishment of mandates that deal with addressing and ending impunity.
To view the pledges of specific countries, please see the attachments below.
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