Kuwait Elected to UN Rights Council After Syria’s Withdrew
Kuwait was elected today to the United Nations Human Rights Council after Syria dropped its bid for a seat, under pressure from Western nations for President Bashar al-Assad’s repression of protesters.
The UN General Assembly elected 15 nations to three-year terms on the Geneva-based body, which has 47 members. Austria, Chile, India, Indonesia and Italy were among the countries which will take seats next month.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari last week told Asian nations that had endorsed his government’s candidacy that the Assad regime was “reprioritizing its candidacies in the UN organization in light of the number of reform measures the government has started to implement.”
“It is a sign of progress that Syria was unable to find adequate international support for its cynical candidacy for the Human Rights Council, and thus had to withdraw,” Patrick Ventrell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the UN, said in a statement released in New York.
“Two years in a row, the most egregiously unqualified candidates have had to withdrawal their candidacies due to lack of support, and a third had its membership suspended on the basis of its gross violations of human rights,” Ventrell said, referring to Iran’s withdrawal in 2010 and Libya’s suspension from the council in March.
The Human Rights Council was established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights, report on the performance of UN member governments, and put pressure on countries to address violations. The U.S. was elected to the council in 2009 after the Bush administration earlier refused to seek membership.
Human rights advocates pressed Kuwait to take steps toward democracy after it took Syria’s place on the slate of Asian candidates. New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait to prevent abuse of migrant workers and New York-based UN Watch said Kuwait wasn’t qualified because it “fails to meet the standards of an electoral democracy.”
The U.S. State Department, in its 2010 human rights report, said Kuwait’s problems include “limitations on citizens’ right to change their government” along with “limited freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association and religion.”
The council currently includes Cuba, China, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Russia, which advocates have said commit human rights abuses. Libya’s membership was suspended in response to the Qaddafi’s regime’s attacks on anti-government protesters.
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