Why the Pak-China-Russia election for UNHRC is morally untenable?

Updated: May 26

Harsh Mangal,

Research Intern,

Internationalism Research.

On 13th October 2020, Pakistan, China, and Russia have been elected for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), despite having a record number of cases of human rights violation. Elections were contested for 15 vacant seats which were available from different regions. Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia will be the representatives from the region of Latin America. Malawi, Gabon, Senegal and Ivory Coast were elected unopposed from the African Region. UK and France were elected from the region of Western Europe. And Russia and Ukraine ran unopposed from the region of Eastern Europe. Elections were hotly contested for the remaining four seats from the Asia-Pacific region - in which China, Pakistan, Nepal and Uzbekistan secured their seats in UNHRC, and Saudi Arabia failed to win a seat, after a significant decline in their support from 2016 when they got 152 votes, as they got only 90 votes in 2020 Elections. Now, these elections were criticized from a number of International Rights Groups, as these elections increase the dominance of human rights violators in a body which was formulated with an aim of curbing human rights violation and keep a check on activities like these. The executive director of the independent rights group, UN Watch, Hiller Neuer commented on this,

“Electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade”.

UN Watch also pointed out, that 60% of next term members of UNHRC do not meet the minimum standards of democracy, which means these countries are either not free or partly free. China, Pakistan and Russia have very poor records in terms of safeguarding human rights. In China we have seen numerous cases of unreasonable interference with privacy, forced and unlawful detention, the judiciary is not independent, and a number of cases of attacks and even the murder of journalists. In China, there is a one-party political system which is authoritarian in nature. No Chinese leader is elected freely and democratically, and in 2018 President Jinping, amended the Chinese constitution and eliminated term limits for president, which enables him to rule the country for an indefinite period.3 During Jinping rule, we have often seen that criticism and dissent are silenced through various unfair means which includes detention and disappearances, we have witnessed this a lot during the corona period also. So the basic liberties like freedom of expression are restricted unreasonably in China, and China is known for its practice of human rights violation and inhumane treatment of common people.

Pakistan also is a serious offender of human rights, as in Pakistan, there are restrictions on religious freedoms, unreasonable restrictions on freedom of expression, and numerous cases of violence against journalists, etc. Pakistan and terrorism seem to be synonymous in front of the global society, and a large area of Pakistan suffers from terrorist activities affecting a large number of civilians. Violence and discrimination against women and transgender is a common practice in Pakistan. These activities make Pakistan an offender of human rights and thus it does not deserve to be a part of the UN Human Rights Council.

Russia is also accused of committing serious human rights violation, because of their repressive laws which are designed to suppress or silence the opposition parties, there are restriction on media and press, and journalists there are targeted repeatedly for arrest and prosecution if they go against the government. Russia is also often accused of assassinating dissidents, recently in August 2020, opposition leader Alex Navalny was poisoned by military-grade Novichok, in an attack which was presumably politically motivated.

UNHRC should be a group of democracies which respects human rights. But when countries like Pakistan, China, and Russia becomes a member of it, UNHRC could become a platform for the human rights violators to defend themselves, and even attack the democracies.

Bringing in such members shows that UNHRC is not willing to reform itself, and after this, democracies like India, should not rely on United Nations Human Rights Council as the embodiment of an institution which is meant to protect human rights across the world.

© AbhiGlobal Legal Research & Media LLP

Any views discussed in the content published by Global Law Assembly (globallawassembly.org) are not in any way endorsed by and are representative of the views of AbhiGlobal Legal Research & Media LLP & its members.