Damage was averted at the United Nations in March when the People’s Republic of China, the PRC, a notorious violator of intellectual property rights, failed in its bid to head the UN organization charged with protecting those same rights, the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Unfortunately, a serious travesty was not averted in October at the UN. The General Assembly voted again to place some of the world’s worst human rights abusers on the Human Rights Council, including the PRC, Russia and Cuba.
Human rights activists were shocked. “Serial rights abusers should not be rewarded with seats on the Human Rights Council,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, called it a “black day for human rights.”
In its most recent human rights report, the U.S. State Department documented a myriad of egregious human rights abuses in PRC, including mass detention of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
In Russia, the State Department detailed extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, and severe suppression of freedoms of expression, among other abuses. In Cuba, a police state, Government security forces intimidated and physically assaulted human rights and pro-democracy advocates on a daily basis and denied freedom of association to the Cuban people.
UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which created the Human Rights Council, requires Council members to “uphold the highest standards
in the promotion and protection of human rights.” The election of the PRC, Russia and Cuba this year -- and Venezuela last year -– shows the Council is not only a shadow, but a mockery of what it was created to be.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that the United States withdrew from the Human Rights Council in 2018 ”due to its well-established pattern of anti-Israel bias and membership rules that allow the election of the world’s worst human rights abusers to seats on the Council.” He noted that prior to exiting, the United States had urged UN member states “to take immediate action to reform the Council before it became irreparable. Unfortunately,” he said, “those calls went unheeded.”
This year’s election further validates the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Council and use other venues and opportunities to protect and promote universal human rights, said Secretary Pompeo. “Our commitments are spelled out clearly in the UN’s [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] and in our record of action.”