The international community should ensure that States responsible for gross human rights violations and that fail to protect human rights defenders or cooperate with the UN are not elected to the UN's top human rights body, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) said today.
A coalition of over 40 leading non-governmental organisations has today called for States that are candidates for membership to the UN Human Rights Council to do more to respect human rights at home and at the international level.
On 12 November, the United Nations General Assembly will elect 14 new members to the Human Rights Council; its top human rights body.
'Elections to the Human Rights Council are a critical moment for the international community to hold States to account for their human rights records, and to deny membership to the most flagrant abusers,' said Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights.
In a joint letter delivered by International Service for Human Rights on behalf of 40 signatories from all regions of the world, NGOs expressed concern about the clear failure of some candidates to fully comply with the criteria of upholding the highest human rights standards, and cooperating with the Human Rights Council.
'Failure by Council members to take effective measures to address violations of human rights for which they are responsible, particularly of a gross or systematic nature, or to fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms undermines the ability of the Council to promote and protect human rights and to demand full state cooperation with its mechanisms,' the letter says.
'The unwillingness of candidates such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia to respect and support the important role played by civil society, non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders is deeply concerning,' said Mr Lynch.
'We are particularly outraged about a disturbing pattern of attacks, intimidation and violence against those who seek to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms, occurring in some candidate States as part of a worldwide trend,' said Mr Lynch.
In the joint letter, global civil society called on candidates to clearly commit to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s human rights experts – the ‘special procedures’ – and with the newly established senior and UN wide focal point to improve the safety of those cooperating with the United Nations.
'The UN depends heavily on the free and safe cooperation of human rights defenders for its effective functioning,” Mr Lynch said. “It’s therefore imperative that each candidate ensure that domestic legal provisions, promote and protect an independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society,' he added.
'The ability of the Council in protecting human rights is undermined if its members do not take effective measures to address violations of human rights for which they are responsible.'
The joint NGO letter was sent to all candidates to the Human Rights Council and copied to members of the UN General Assembly. It was initiated by ISHR and supported by leading NGOs.
List of signatory organisations:
Additional signatories (as of 5 November 2013):