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12 October, 2018 00:00 00 AM

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UN Human Rights Council election

Bangladesh set to become member today

HUMAYUN KABIR BHUIYAN

Despite stiff opposition from different rights groups from across the globe for the country’s human rights record, Bangladesh is set to be elected a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in the election that will take place today in New York, according to officials of the foreign ministry. Eighteen memberships in the 47-members HRC, the highest rights body of the UN, are up for grabs for the 2019-2021 terms and all the members of the UN General Assembly will vote in the election.

All the 18 members seeking the position will be elected as there is no competition, much to the criticism of different groups.

“We are all but certain to be elected,” a top foreign ministry official told The Independent yesterday. “It will be an important milestone for the country for so many reasons especially Bangladesh’s hosting of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people who are the victims of the violations of worst forms of human rights,” he said.

About the stiff opposition of many rights groups for Bangladesh’s own human rights records, the official said, “We faced these types of opposition when we were elected earlier. When it comes to human rights, no country is perfect and we are making every effort to get things right.”

Last time, Bangladesh served the HRC as a member from 2015 till 2017. “The vote tomorrow (Friday) is a mere formality. We are there,” said another senior official, adding that the election is held based on the basis of five regions.

“We face this problem of opposition every year from different groups. Even, groups from our own country oppose our membership sometimes,” he said. “Though our election is confirmed in terms of regional basis, we will have to see how many votes we get,” said another official.                      

Earlier on Monday, a 21-page report, co-sponsored by UN Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, was released evaluating the country candidates for the election. According to the evaluation of the report, Bangladesh along with Bahrain, Cameroon, Eritrea, Philippines and Somalia are not qualified for the membership as these countries have poor records.

Four candidates — Burkina Faso, Fiji, India and Togo — have problematic human rights and UN voting records.

As per the report, only eight out of eighteen countries — Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy and Uruguay – are qualified to be members of the HRC. The report prepared with the inputs from NGO’s from Europe, the United States and Canada is being distributed among UN diplomats, according to a news release issued by UN Watch.

The UN Watch is a Geneva-based non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is “to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter”. It is an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council and an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.

“The whole point of the 2006 reform, initiated by the late UN chief Kofi Annan, was to create competition that would weed out the worst abusers. Sadly, this was never respected, with current elected members including Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, Burundi and Venezuela. Yet this year, there is not even the illusion of competition,” said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the UN Watch said.

Despite the lack of competition in each regional group, he emphasised that there is a myth among UN diplomats that they are obliged to vote for all candidates on a clean slate.

“As made clear in our report, voting nations can and should refrain from electing rights abusers to the UN’s highest human rights body. We need to hear the EU’s Federica Mogherini and EU member states lead the call to oppose the worst abusers. So far, they have been silent,” said Neuer.

“Sadly, all signs are that the UN will disregard its own rules and principles on Friday by rubber-stamping the election of Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, the Philippines and Somalia — even though these regimes systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens,” he said, adding, “And, consistently frustrate UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others.”

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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