Delegates attend a session of United Nations Human Rights Council on June 6, 2017 in Geneva. The United Nations Human Rights Council opens a new session, with a speech from US envoy Nikki Haley following threats from Washington to quit the council over its treatment of Israel. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

A joint human rights letter: The United Nations should refrain from voting for candidates who do not meet the requirements for membership of the Human Rights Council

In International Advocacy Program, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

Ahead of the UN elections of 13 October 2020, 18 national, regional and international human rights organizations- among them the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies- called on UN member states to refrain from voting for candidates that fail to fulfil the Human Rights Council membership standards, and have a long record of committing human rights violations and disregarding international obligations. The organizations also called on member states to ensure that elections are competitive.

Member States of the UN should refrain from voting for candidates to the Human Rights Council that are unfit for membership



Ahead of the next United Nations Human Rights Council (“HRC” or “the Council”) election, we, the undersigned national, regional and international civil society organisations, write to urge your delegation to refrain from voting for candidates that manifestly fail to fulfil the Council membership standards set forth in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 60/251. Resolution 60/251 establishes that members of the Council should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms. It further determines that, when voting, Member States should take into consideration the candidates’ contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments.

In October 2020, the next HRC election will determine which States sit as Members of the Council in the next three years (2021-2023). Civil society organisations are alarmed that several of the States that are running for election fail to fulfil minimal requirements concerning both the promotion and protection of human rights and cooperation with the Council and other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Some of these candidates demonstrate a consistent pattern of non-cooperation with the UN human rights system, as well as blatant disregard for fundamental rights, which is incompatible with Council membership. Furthermore, some of this year’s candidates have engaged in recurrent acts of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organisations, who play a vital role in the Council’s work. We are also alarmed that candidates have attacked the UN human rights system itself and that their voluntary pledges fail to reflect the realities on the ground. Voting for these candidates would gravely undermine the Council’s credibility and institutional integrity.
Civil society organisations have long criticised non-competitive slates for the Council. Even in those cases, though, considering that States must receive a simple majority of votes (i.e., 97) to be elected, that voting takes place by secret ballot, and that electing States are under no obligation to vote for each and every candidate within a regional group, delegations could simply refrain from voting for unfit candidates.

We urge you to treat human rights considerations and the substantive Council membership criteria outlined in resolution 60/251 as paramount in electing members to the Council by leaving the ballot blank for those candidate States your delegation considers unfit, rather than engaging in vote trading or privileging political considerations over fundamental human rights. We also urge States to keep Council elections competitive by presenting and supporting eligible candidacies and avoiding clean slates in every election of the Human Rights Council.


Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Child Rights Connect
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
Conectas Direitos Humanos
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Human Rights House Foundation
Human Rights Watch
ILGA World
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos – MNDH Brasil
Save the Children

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