On May 17, the United Nations General Assembly will hold elections for 16 of the 47 seats on the new Human Rights Council. Shockingly, among the states seeking election is Belarus, a state that does not come close to meeting the requirements for membership on this human rights body. Human Rights Council members are required to uphold the “highest standards” of human rights and “fully cooperate” with the Council. Belarus fails on both counts.
Belarus’ Human Rights Record
Only four months ago, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted Resolution 61/175 sharply criticizing Belarus for a long litany of human rights violations, including:
Failure to hold free and fair elections;
Arbitrary use of State power against opposition candidates;
Routine harassment and arrest of political and civil society activists;
Harassment and detention of journalists;
Implication of government officials in the enforced disappearance or summary execution of opposition politicians and journalists;
Forced closure of the University of Belarus; and
Harassment and closure of civil society organizations, and harassment and prosecution of human rights defenders.
Belarus’ Record of Non-Cooperation
In the same resolution, the General Assembly cited Belarus for failing to cooperate with the Human Rights Council. Belarus has refused to allow the UN expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to address the human rights situation in the country to visit, a fact which alone should be sufficient to deny Belarus a seat on the Council. The General Assembly also called for Belarus to cooperate with “all the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, in particular with the Special Rapporteur.”
No Votes for Belarus
Election to the Human Rights Council requires an absolute majority of the General Assembly—97 members—to write in the name of the candidate on the ballot. UN member states should to commit themselves to cast votes only for candidates that meet the standards for membership on the Council. On that basis, no state should write in Belarus on its ballot. The Human Rights Council and victims of human rights abuse worldwide deserve that much.
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