May 17 - Issue 11 - Results of Human Rights Council Election

New York, May 17, 2007 - The General Assembly elected fourteen countries to the UN Human Rights Council this morning. The election took nearly three hours and two rounds of voting.  Although most of the seats were uncontested, tight contests in the Eastern and Western European groupings pushed the voting into a second round. The new members - including five who were re-elected for a second term - will begin their terms on June 20, 2007.

Results Summary

Re-elected: India, Indonesia, Netherlands, Philippines, South Africa

Newly elected: Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bolivia, Egypt, Italy, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Qatar, Slovenia

These states will serve a three-year term, from June 20, 2007 to June 19, 2010. Members may serve two consecutive terms. Therefore, the re-elected states will not be eligible for immediate re-election. Newly elected states will be eligible for immediate re-election for one more term. 

Candidates elected with the highest number of votes: India (185), Indonesia (182)

Candidates elected with the lowest number of votes: Italy (101), Bosnia and Herzegovina (112)

Results Details

African Group

  • - Total Seats on Council: 13
  • - Members Whose Terms Expire on June 19, 2007: Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia

Official Candidates

Election Results - Round 1

Comments

Angola

172 - elected

  • The African Group ran a "clean slate" - the number of candidates running for election equaled the number of seats available.
  • Incumbent members Tunisia and Morocco, which were not official candidates, each received one vote.
  • Two states abstained from voting.

Egypt

168 - elected

Madagascar

182 - elected

South Africa

175 - re-elected

Asian Group

  • - Total Seats on Council: 13
  • - Members Whose Terms Expire on June 19, 2007: Bahrain, India, Indonesia, Philippines

Official Candidates

Election Results - Round 1

Comments

India

185 - re-elected

  • The Asian Group ran a "clean slate."
  • By a previous agreement within the Asian Group, all four members whose terms were expiring were to be "grandfathered in" for renewed terms. Bahrain, however, endorsed Qatar as its replacement.
  • Timor-Leste and Bahrain, not official candidates, each received one vote.

Indonesia

182 - re-elected

Philippines

179 - re-elected

Qatar

170 - elected

Eastern European Group

  • - Total Seats on Council: 6
  • - Members Whose Terms Expire on June 19, 2007: Czech Republic, Poland

Official Candidates

Election Results - Round 1

Election Results - Round 2

Belarus

78

72

Bosnia and Herzegovina

95

112 - elected

Slovenia

168 - elected

 

Comments:

  • On May 15, after pressure from governments hoping to prevent Belarus from being elected (reportedly including France, the U.S., and the U.K.), Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its candidacy. Thus Eastern Europe became one of only two regions not running a "clean slate."
  • A concerted lobbying effort on May 16, the day before the election, took place to generate support for Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to media reports, Canada, France, the U.K., and the U.S. came together yesterday to coordinate outreach and lobbying to approximately 150 member states. The effort apparently was successful despite Belarus' support from many fellow members of the Non-aligned Movement, which represents a majority of Member States.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina's score in the first round seemed to surprise many in the room, and the President had to ask for silence so she could continue reading the results.
  • Three states abstained from voting in the first round. Six abstained in the second round.

Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Group

  • - Total Seats on Council: 8
  • - Members Whose Terms Expire on June 19, 2007: Argentina, Ecuador

Official Candidates

Election Results - Round 1

Comments

Bolivia

169 - elected

  • LAC ran a "clean slate."
  • Non-candidates Honduras and Paraguay each received two votes. Belize, Chile, and Costa Rica each received one vote.
  • Ten states abstained from voting.

Nicaragua

174 - elected

Western European and Other States Group (WEOG)

  • - Total Seats on Council: 7
  • - Members Whose Terms Expire on June 19, 2007: Netherlands, Finland

Official Candidates

Election Results - Round 1

Election Results - Round 2

Denmark

114

86

Italy

114

101 - elected

Netherlands

121 - re-elected

 

Comments:

  • WEOG was one of the two regions not running a "clean slate." (The other was Eastern Europe.)
  • Eight states abstained from voting in the first round. Two abstained in the second round.

Voting Procedures

The terms of reference for Human Rights Council members were laid out in General Assembly Resolution 60/251, passed on March 15, 2006. It stated (OP 14) that in order to stagger the three-year terms of membership, the 47 members first elected would draw lots to serve a one-year or two-year term. The fourteen states who then received a one-year term will see their seats expire on June 19, 2007, one year after the convening of the first meeting of the Council. The countries elected today to replace them will serve the full three-year term.

The voting takes place by secret ballot. An absolute majority of General Assembly members is needed for a candidate to be elected. (An absolute majority is fifty percent plus one - currently 97 members.) 

In her instructions today, General Assembly President Al Khalifa twice reminded voting states to "take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto." These criteria were decided by the General Assembly in its resolution establishing the Council. Voluntary pledges are documentation and commitments submitted by the state in support of its candidacy. The pledges can be used to evaluate the country's performance during its time on the Council. (Further, if Council members "fail to uphold the highest human rights standards, they can be suspended through a two-thirds majority vote by Assembly members" (Resolution 60/251)).

The General Assembly Rules of Procedure and "past practices" supply the rest of the voting rules:

  • - If more candidates than seats available receive sufficient votes, the candidate receiving the largest number is elected (Rule 94);
  • - In case of a tie, there will be a special round of voting restricted to those candidates (based on "past practice" of the GA).

President Al Khalifa noted that when voting began, no campaigning would be allowed in the Hall and campaigning material could no longer be distributed.  However, campaign materials were visible on many delegations' desks throughout the election. 

Civil Society Initiatives

Civil society groups and NGOs expressed concern about the candidacies of Belarus, Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt, Angola, and Qatar. The groups cited the states' poor human rights records, failure to fulfill their previous human rights commitments, and recent non-cooperation with procedures of the Council itself. 

Human rights groups in several regions and international groups led a "No on Belarus" campaign, described in UNelection Monitor Issue # 10, which reinforced the efforts by the governments of the U.S. and influential European countries to urge Bosnia to enter the race. Also calling for the rejection of Belarus were a group of Czech senators, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee, and the families of Belarusian political prisoners.  Efforts to prevent Belarus' election started soon after the General Assembly adopted a resolution criticizing its human rights situation in December 2006 and built momentum during the Council's Fourth Session in Geneva in March 2007.

On May 14, a joint effort by 19 human rights groups alerted the General Assembly to Egypt's human rights record including many years of "serious human rights violations." They cited state-condoned police torture, arbitrary detention, trying civilians before military tribunals, and the rigging of elections.

Additionally, Asian human rights groups urged member states not to re-elect the Philippines to the Council.  They cited the "worsening human rights situation in the country" including 49 documented (and hundreds of undocumented) extrajudicial killings in the year since the Philippines became a member of the Human Rights Council.  They also wrote open letters to the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines, formally drawing attention to the gap between their human rights performance and their pledges upon election to the Council last June.

Finally, UN Watch and Freedom House highlighted the "negative [human rights] UN voting records" and "authoritarian regimes" of Angola and Qatar in addition to Belarus and Egypt.

Useful Resources

Summary of Election Results (from General Assembly)

Human Rights Council's Webpage on HRC Membership

Forum-Asia:

Press Release - Indonesia and Philippines as HRC Members

Letter to Philippines on HRC Commitments and Assessment of Philippines' HRC Commitments

Letter to Indonesia on HRC Commitments and Assessment of Indonesia's HRC Commitments

Human Rights Watch: Belarus' Pledges - Fiction and Fact

UN Watch: Belarus, Egypt Urged to Release Prisoners Before UN Rights Election

In the News

Belarus defeated for seat on UN Human Rights Council, but Egypt, Angola and Qatar win seats - International Herald Tribune, May 17

Group urges UN members to reject RP in right council - Asian Journal Online, May 17

Egyptian Rights Groups Reject Country's Candidacy in UN Human Rights Council - International Herald Tribune, May 14

More News