The UN Human Rights Council will this week maintain an unprecedented secret poll to choose its president after China and others blocked a candidate from Fiji thought-about a rights champion, sources and analysts mentioned.
“There has been a standoff,” a supply near the council who requested to not be named advised AFP. “It is a very, very messy situation.”
The dispute may underscore rising jostling within the prime UN rights physique by nations intent on steering it away from criticising nations over alleged abuses of particular person rights and in the direction of specializing in advances in financial and social rights.
The council’s presidency rotates annually between areas and is usually agreed by consensus inside every regional group.
This yr, although, the Asia-Pacific group (APG) attributable to take the helm did not agree on a candidate — and even on holding a vote inside the group.
That means the council, which for the primary time in its 15-year historical past started the yr with no president, will on Friday maintain an unprecedented vote amongst all 47 members.
Sources near deliberations mentioned China, Russia and Saudi Arabia and others balked on the widely-expected appointment of Fiji’s ambassador, and orchestrated an opposing candidacy.
Among the official objections was that Fiji had introduced its candidacy too early, previous to elections of this yr’s council members, however rights teams mentioned the opposition was possible pushed by the Pacific island nation’s outspokenness on rights points.
“They would say that Fiji is too pro-Western,” Marc Limon, head of the Universal Rights Group think-tank, advised AFP.
“But I think in reality, their problem is that Fiji is pro-human rights, and has taken strong positions on the council.”
A senior Chinese diplomat rejected allegations that China had opposed Fiji or urged others to take action, insisting this was a “misinterpretation of our position”.
Asking to not be named, the diplomat confused that China may “accept any of the three candidates” now on the poll.
Russian and Saudi Arabian representatives didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The Asia-Pacific group had been anticipated final month to anoint Fiji’s ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, who served as vice chairman final yr and was lengthy the one candidate within the race.
But simply days earlier than the anticipated announcement on December 7, Bahrain introduced the candidacy of its ambassador Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri.
“We understand… that Bahrain came forward after being encouraged by states including China, Saudi Arabia and Russia,” Phil Lynk, head of the International Service for Human Rights, advised AFP.
While the standoff over a largely procedural place may appear stunning, he mentioned there gave the impression to be concern that Fiji’s sturdy stance on quite a lot of points since becoming a member of the council in 2019 may need raised issues that Khan can be an “active” president.
The president primarily oversees council conferences, however can be accountable for appointing the impartial specialists who examine nations’ alleged rights abuses, and may decide how arduous to crack down on instances of state intimidation in opposition to those that cooperate with the physique.
Concerns over a robust council president can also have been exacerbated forward of a yr when the United States is predicted to return, after outgoing President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, analysts mentioned.
Ken Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, mentioned the objection to Fiji was “a transparent effort to handicap the Human Rights Council.”
“They prefer somebody like Bahrain, which is effectively a stooge of the Saudis, and hardly has any interest in promoting human rights, because Bahrain is a severe abuser itself,” he advised AFP.
Bahrain representatives didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Both Fiji and Bahrain met with opposition from a number of nations, so a name was put out for a 3rd candidate and Uzbekistan entered the fray.
None of them in the meantime managed to garner consensus assist, forcing Friday’s unprecedented vote earlier than the complete council.
The Chinese diplomat voiced frustration on the state of affairs, including that his nation had urged all sides to “show flexibility.”
“This is the first time that one regional group cannot reach agreement on a single candidate to nominate to the Human Rights Council,” the diplomat mentioned.
“That is very sad.”
After the entire back-and-forth, observers mentioned Fiji was anticipated to hold Friday’s vote.
“Looking at the membership leanings, Fiji is likely to win,” the supply near the council mentioned.
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