The UN General Assembly [official website] on Thursday elected 14 new members [materials] to the Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website], half of which have questionable human rights records. Several of the new members, including Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Thailand, and Uganda have been accused of human rights violations. The election, which is performed as a secret ballot, was uncontested, as the number of candidates equaled the number of seats available for each regional group, essentially guaranteeing a seat to each candidate. The US has received criticism for not speaking against the HRC's acceptance of countries with ongoing human rights violations. American ambassador Susan Rice [official profile], stated that the Obama administration realizes the HRC is flawed, but that it is better to work on reform from within the council, rather than from the sidelines. Human Rights Watch [official website] said the the lack of competition in the HRC's elections undermines the standards [press release] set forth for membership and deprives the General Assembly of electing the most qualified candidates.
The HRC elections lost any sense of competition when Iran withdrew its candidacy for the Asia Group last month amid strong international opposition based on Iran's record for human rights violations. Iranian official Mohammad Javad Larijani told the HRC in February that it would pursue the candidacy and that Iran is fulfilling its human rights obligations [JURIST report]. Larijani also said that the nation has implemented long-term plans to protect human rights [Reuters report]. Larijani rejected criticism suggesting the nation engaged in the torture and murder of dissidents, characterizing these allegations as politically motivated attempts to undermine Iran in light of the recent developments in its nuclear program. Larijani reiterated that Iran's nuclear program is intended for civilian use only. Amnesty International [advocacy website] criticized [press release, PDF] Iran's earlier report [text, PDF] to the HRC, calling its portrayal of the state of human rights in the nation distorted. Iran's report was not able to sway the international community and withdrew its candidacy amid concern that it would not have the adequate support necessary to win the seat.