The UN General Assembly (UNGA) [official website] on Tuesday elected 14 countries [press release] to a three-year term on the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] beginning January 1. The assembly chose Algeria, China, Cuba, France Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Vietnam, Russia and the UK via a secret ballot election. The UNHRC, created by UNGA Resolution 61/251 [text] in 2006, is an inter-governmental body of the UN responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. It is also tasked with making recommendations for specific human rights violations. Its 47 members are mandated to be made up of 13 seats for African States,13 seats for Asian States, eight seats for Latin American and Caribbean States, seven seats for Western European and other States, and six seats for Eastern European States. A spokesperson for US Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] expressed concern [press briefing] over some of the election winner's human rights record, but emphasized the desire to work with them moving forward.
Notably, countries such as Cuba, Russia and China were elected despite ongoing concerns with their human rights record. Earlier this week a European rights body urged [JURIST report] Russia to reform its judiciary. Last month China defended its human rights record in relation to a report [JURIST reports] issued by human rights experts the week before. In August Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] Cuba to release the 'prisoners of conscience'. Cuba has a history of suppressing political dissent [HRW backgrounder] through the holding of prisoners of conscience or criminal prosecutions. Also in August Chinese writer, lawyer and human rights advocate Yang Maodong, commonly known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong [HRIC profile], became the second leader of the New Citizens movement to be arrested [JURIST report] on suspicion of disrupting the peace. In June the UN released a letter from human rights experts voicing their concern [JURIST report] that two Russian non-governmental organizations have been charged by Russian prosecutors following their involvement with the UN Committee against Torture [official website].