Malawi elected to join UN human rights council: China, Russia win spots

Malawi has been elected to the UN human rights council for the next three years on the 47-seat body during elections held on Tuesday conducted at the UN headquarters in New York.

 President Lazarus Chakwera with VP Saulos Chilima: Malawi will serve a three-year term.

Under the council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.

Four countries won Africa seats: Malawi, Ivory Coast,  Gabon and Senegal. Russia and Ukraine were the only candidates for two East European seats. In the Latin American and Caribbean group, Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia ran unopposed for three seats. And Britain and France are the sole candidates for two seats for the Western European and others group.

Malawi got 180 votes out of about 190 votes  in the secret ballot.

Each nation state sitting on the council is charged with promoting and protecting human rights.

In an interview with Nyasa Times, social and governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali welcomed Malawi’s election on the Geneva-based UN’s premier human rights body.

“It does give Malawi a voice at that level, visibility and ofcourse a chance to raise rights issues dear to our heart…through tabling and sponsorship of resolutions.

“We can also use it to enhance our engagement with UN bodies,’’ said Munthali.

China, Russia and Cuba also won seats despite opposition from activist groups over their abysmal human rights records.

The Geneva-based rights organization published a 30-page joint report with the Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights evaluating candidates for council seats.

The report lists Bolivia, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Malawi, Mexico, Senegal and Ukraine as having “questionable” credentials due to problematic human rights and UN voting records that need improvement. It gave “qualified” ratings only to the United Kingdom and France.

Meanwhile, an editorial comment in the Jerusalem Post newspaper of Israel has spoken against the automatic election of proven human rights abusers to the council.

Reads the editorial:“The UNHRC is part of a continuing farce. The record of its predecessor, the Commission for Human Rights, was so poor that it was disbanded. The current council, formed in 2006, is no better.”

The paper said UNHRC spends more time reviewing and condemning Israel than it does looking at the actions of totalitarian regimes such as North Korea.

It said for the United Nations Human Rights Council to be worthy of its name, its membership must reflect those countries who believe in and abide by human rights.

The paper said UN Human Rights Council has lost all credibility and cannot perform the task for which it was created. It must either be reformed or disbanded. In its current form, the UNHRC is guaranteed to ignore gross human rights abuses among its own members.

The United States announced its withdrawal from the council in June 2018 partly because it considered the body a forum for hypocrisy about human rights, though also because Washington says the council is anti-Israel.

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