Pakistan Re-elected to the UNHRC | 15 Oct 2020

Why in News

Pakistan is currently serving on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) since 1st January, 2018. With its re-election, Pakistan will continue as a member for another three-year term commencing on 1st January, 2021.

  • A total of Fifteen countries were elected to the 47-nation council. Russia and Cuba were elected unopposed. Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Nepal and China were elected from the Asia-Pacific region.

Key Points

  • Pakistan has been re-elected despite opposition from activist groups over its abysmal human rights records. This is the fifth time that Pakistan has been elected to the UNHRC.
    • Acoording to the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report titled 'Human Rights and Democracy', there were serious human rights concerns and violations in Pakistan in 2019, including restrictions on civic space and freedom of expression, intolerance and direct and open discrimination towards minorities.
  • Concerns:
    • Countries with Dubious Record: With a number of countries with questionable rights records being elected, the current system of entry to UNHRC is in serious need of reform.
      • The election of states such as China and Russia “damages the reputation of the HRC, its standing within the international human rights committee and beyond”.
    • Non-competitive Elections: Problem of election without opposition.
      • For example, the Eastern European group had two available seats but only two countries were nominated to fill those positions, meaning there was no competition for the spots.
      • Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council was decided in advance because all the other regional groups had unopposed states.
  • The Other View: Electing nations with dubious human rights records has some positives.
    • There is a silver lining to repressive countries being elected to the council – their position as the supposed guardian of human rights makes it far more difficult for them to hide their own human rights abuses.

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

  • It was established in 2006.
  • Headquarter: Geneva, Switzerland
  • Aim: Promoting and protecting human rights around the globe, as well as investigating alleged human rights violations.
  • Features: The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis from 5 groups.
    • Membership: To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UN General Assembly (an absolute majority).
      • According to Resolution 60/251, which created the council, members are elected directly by secret ballot by the majority of the UN General Assembly. Membership has to be equally distributed geographically.
      • Five regional groups for membership: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.
      • The members are elected for a period of three years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
    • Sessions: The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September.
    • The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states, which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.

Way Forward

  • The USA withdrew from the UNHRC in 2018 citing its ineffectiveness and bias. For India it is a testing time as Pakistan got re-elected despite dubious status regarding human rights.
  • However, India’s commitment towards respecting institutions of global governance mandates to have a critical voice against some events instead of quitting the membership without reasons backed by principles.

Source: TH