Joyce Bukuru – How Saudi Arabia Kept its UN Human Rights Council Seat

How did Saudi Arabia, which has been indiscriminately bombing Yemeni civilians for 18 months, just get re-elected to the Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ premier human rights body?

Unlike Russia, whose failure to retain its council seat made the news last week, Saudi Arabia was able to slide safely back into its own chair.

Why? Because it had no competition. Seats on the Human Rights Council are shared among five regional groups. This year, the Asia group put forward just four candidates for their four open seats on the council, effectively guaranteeing their election. Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia, China, Iraq, and Japan all won.

The Eastern Europe group, however, put forward more candidates than the number of seats available, with Russia, Croatia, and Hungary all competing for two seats. The result was Russia’s unexpected defeat by two votes.

Saudi Arabia’s pre-cooked victory raises a serious question – is the integrity of the Human Rights Council compromised if some countries don’t even have to compete for a seat on the body? This was one of the reasons its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights, was shut down and replaced with the council 10 years ago.

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