UN General Assembly elects 15 new Human Rights Council members

UN General Assembly elects 15 new Human Rights Council members

Kuwait and Congo were among 15 countries elected by the UN General Assembly on Friday to serve in the UN Human Rights Council, but their inclusion was criticized by human rights advocates, dpa reported.

The 15 countries are to serve three-year terms in the 47-nation council. They are: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Congo, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kuwait, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania. They will replace 15 countries whose terms expire at the end of May.

All 15 countries received well above the required 97 votes - the two-third majority votes in the 192-nation assembly needed to win a seat in the council in Geneva.

Before Friday's vote, human rights groups campaigned against some of the candidates, rating Congo and Kuwait as authoritarian regimes. But they won the competition after running unopposed.

The advocacy groups had campaigned against Syria, which withdrew and was replaced by Kuwait.

"Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua have poor records in respecting the basic human rights of their own citizens," UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said Friday. He said those countries consistently voted against UN initiatives that sought to promote and protect human rights.

Nicaragua, considered "not qualified" because it was rated a partly free regime, received 98 votes. Latin American and the Caribbean were allowed only three seats, which went to Chile (189 votes), Costa Rica (138 votes) and Peru (196 votes).

Other countries whose human rights records were deemed "questionable" - India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Burkina Faso - also won.

The Human Rights Council in April suspended Libya's membership after Moammer Gaddafi's security forces used heavy weapons and tanks against pro-democracy protesters.

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