Illustration: Charlotte Giang Beuret for ISHR.

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Elections of the Human Rights Council President for the 18th cycle in 2024

The UN Human Rights Council prepares to elect its 2024 President from Africa—Morocco & South Africa in the running. In a joint letter, NGOs urge all members of the Council to elect the Council President based on Council membership criteria.

Update: On 10 January 2024, the Council elected Morocco’s representative, Omar Zniber, as its President. The results of the vote were: 30 votes for Morocco, and 17 votes for South Africa.

On 8 December 2023, the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) announced that a vote is expected in January 2024, possibly on 10 January 2024, to elect the Council’s President for the 18th cycle in 2024 from the Africa Group. The State representatives who have put forward their candidacies are Morocco and South Africa. 

While we do not take a position on individual candidates, we consider that it is imperative that the process be in line with the principles set out in General Assembly Resolution 60/251 and the Council’s Institution Building Package, which include transparency, non-politicisation and the promotion and protection of human rights, and that the Council President should embody these values. 

The role of the Council President is to uphold the institutional integrity of the Council in its work, including by playing a key role in cases of reprisals and intimidation. We reiterate that acts of intimidation and reprisals are the most flagrant types of non-cooperation and represent attacks not only on the individuals and groups that are targeted, but on the Council and the United Nations system as a whole. 

The Council’s President must uphold the minimum criteria set out in General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which requires that Members uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and cooperate fully and in good faith with the Council and its mechanisms. Thus, the Council President should have a demonstrated commitment to addressing reprisals and a history of supporting cooperation with Council mechanisms. Any representatives of States that appear in the Secretary General’s annual reports on reprisals, particularly those States that appear to engage in a pattern or policy of reprisals, seeking the position of the Council’s Presidency raises serious concerns.

In this regard, ISHR has prepared an objective comparison of the candidates to the Council’s Presidency, based on OP9 of General Assembly Resolution 60/251. The score-card (in the annex to this letter) is intended to give a brief overview of each candidate’s adherence to Council membership standards: upholding the highest standards of promotion and protection of human rights, cooperation with the Council’s mechanisms, their record on acts of intimidation and reprisal against those who cooperate with the UN in the field of human rights and pledges to strengthen and adhere to Council membership standards. ISHR acknowledges that data limitations and the need for objectivity mean that several of the criteria are concerned with form rather than substance. 

We urge all members of the Council to elect the Council President based on the objective criteria as outlined above. 

Sincerely,

Signatories

  1. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  2. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  3. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  4. Child Rights Connect
  5. CIVICUS
  6. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  7. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  8. Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO)
  9. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  10. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  11. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  12. Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition
  13. Humanists International
  14. ILGA World
  15. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  16. International Commission of Jurists
  17. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  18. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  19. MENA Rights Group

Read the score-card and sources for the criteria here.

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