UN Assembly elects new human rights guardians

Special to WorldTribune.com

By John J. Metzler

The UN General Assembly just concluded its election for fourteen new members in the Human Rights Council.  Delegates have chosen a conclave of candidates who sit in somber judgement of global freedoms and virtues, though ironically, many of these new members selected are actually among the very abusers and rights violators the Council is presumably monitoring.

We are speaking about countries ranging from China, Cuba and Eritrea, to Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.  You get the picture.  In balance there are members such as the USA, France, Poland and South Korea.

Voting for the Geneva-based 47 member Council is based on regional groupings where customary back-room selection usually produces an unopposed candidates list which only sometimes goes to an actual contested election. There were 190 ballots being cast in each of the groupings.

UN Human Rights Council

So, let’s take a quick overview of the new members winning three-year terms starting in 2023.


The African continent gets four new members which were all selected, four out of four. South Africa came in first with 182 votes followed by Algeria and Morocco, and then Sudan.

While South Africa still retains a democratic framework, its rights and freedoms are sadly deteriorating under a system of corruption, cronyism and crime. Then there’s Algeria, anything but democratic, holds poor ratings on the respected Freedom House scorecard.  Morocco, though facing some challenges, remains a close friend of France and the U.S.   Sudan, a true standout, remains one of the continents least free countries.


Here it got unexpectedly interesting. There were six countries contesting four seats. Bangladesh came in first with 160 votes (let’s be fair, Bangladesh as a poor country, has done so very much to help the Rohingya refugees fleeing Burma).  Then it was the Maldive Islands, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan who won.   South Korea the (Republic of Korea) scored poorly with 123 votes and was not re-elected. Afghanistan received a measly 12 ballots.

Vietnam by no stretch of the imagination is a democratic state and neither is Kyrgyzstan.  Both rate poorly on the Freedom House democracy Index and are listed as Not Free.

But South Korea is not only a thriving democracy but a major contributor to the UN system.  Why did they lose? Seoul’s government opposed China in a recent human rights Resolution and this may be Beijing’s payback.  Afghanistan lost for all the right reasons;  the Taliban regime was happily not honored nor humored with a win.

Eastern Europe  

Here it was two out of two. Both Georgia and Romania won seats.   Romania is a member of both the European Union and NATO. The Bucharest government, which has become far more pluralist in recent years, has gone the extra mile in aiding Ukrainian refugees. Georgia, parts of which remain under Russian occupation, rates as only Partly Free by the Freedom House measure with 58 out of 100 points.

In April, Reflecting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the General Assembly approved a U.S.-backed resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council because of the rights violations. Later the assembly voted overwhelmingly for the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the Council. Poetic justice indeed!

Latin America

This was the most watched ballot where two democracies were facing off Venezuela for only two places.  Chile and Costa Rica both proudly hold serious democratic credentials in the realms of civil and political rights. Venezuela is sadly on the other end of the spectrum with a corrupt Marxist regime in place which has turned a once prosperous country into a tragic basket case.  In the balloting, Chile won 144 votes, Costa Rica 134 and Venezuela only 88. Thus, Venezuela lost its bid for a second term on the Council.

The respected monitor Human Rights Forum firmly opposed the election of Venezuela.  “The defeat of Venezuela’s candidacy is certainly something to celebrate. A brutal dictatorial regime that created one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history has no business being part of the UN Human Rights Council,” said Alvaro Piaggio, HRF’s Senior Policy Officer for Latin America.  The New York based HRF plainly stated that Afghanistan, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Vietnam and Venezuela were equally unqualified for membership.

Western Europe

Here there were two countries running for two seats; Belgium and Germany.  Both democratic countries were elected and are richly qualified to sit on this Council.

Among the new members, sadly many are the abusers sitting in judgement. Indeed, the real tragedy remains that the Council may actually reflect the world in more ways than we would care to admit.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]