Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force of UNA-USA Applauds U.S. Reelection to Human Rights Council

November 30, 2012
Following the United States reelection to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force issued the following statement:

“On November 12, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly elected the United States to a second three-year term on the UN’s principal intergovernmental human rights organ, the Human Rights Council (HRC). This was a challenging election for the United States, which competed against four other countries from the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group, thus having five candidates for three open seats on the Council.  When the final tally was taken, the United States, Germany, and Ireland won seats on the Council while Greece and Sweden did not. In a welcome outcome, the U.S. actually came in first in the balloting among the WEOG candidates.

“The Obama Administration carried out an organized, effective, and principled campaign in an uncertain context. In particular, it applauds the exceptional leadership and work of both U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, as well as U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Eileen Donahoe. The Task Force also expresses its appreciation to those countries that voted in favor of the United States. 

“In the elections, the United States set a clear precedent of prioritizing principle over politics. In choosing to run on a competitive election slate, with success far from certain, the U.S. set an example regarding the value of genuinely competitive democratic elections for the Council, which has been criticized by some for having members that represent anti-human rights states.  The U.S. has successfully used other competitive elections by the Council to defeat a number of gross human rights violators running for membership on the HRC. Without open and competitive slates, these violators would have run unopposed on closed regional slates. The U.S. decision to run in this election’s only competitive regional group should encourage other countries to challenge dictatorial and abusive regimes that seek membership in other groups. This is what happened in Africa, where Sudan’s initial unopposed candidacy was challenged by Kenya, leading Sudan to withdraw rather than face an embarrassing defeat.   

“The U.S. successfully utilized its first term to bring leadership on new human rights initiatives to the much-criticized Council.  In its first term, for example, the United States worked with other Council members to establish special sessions of the Council on an emergency basis that established Commissions of Inquiry for the crises in Libya and Syria and provided documented facts on human rights abuses in each case; it created a special rapporteur to monitor human rights in Iran and Belarus, two countries formerly monitored by the UN body but ignored and dismissed by the Council in its early pre-U.S. sessions. The U.S. helped create a new special rapporteur to protect the freedom of assembly and association and broke new ground in adopting resolutions condemning violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons as well as promoting Internet freedom, among many other accomplishments. The Task Force acknowledges that these mechanisms would not have been created or effective if the U.S. had not used its ‘smart power’ to bring them into existence and action.

“The period ahead will be an especially important one for the Council as countries such as China, Cuba, and Russia will be rotating off the Council for at least a year due to term limits. This offers a unique opportunity for the United States to collaborate with its allies, likeminded delegations, other Council members, and the NGO community, to promote the advancement and realization of universal human rights and take some initiatives that have been blocked previously.”

The Leo Nevas Task Force is an advisory group of distinguished citizens knowledgeable and vitally concerned about international human rights and the role of the UN and the U.S. in protecting them. It is based at UNA-USA.

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