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Human rights abusers must not be elected to Human Rights Council

A coalition of over 40 leading non-governmental organisations has today called for States that are candidates for membership to the UN Human Rights Council to do more to respect human rights at home and at the international level.

The international community should ensure that States responsible for gross human rights violations and that fail to protect human rights defenders or cooperate with the UN are not elected to the UN’s top human rights body, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) said today.

A coalition of over 40 leading non-governmental organisations has today called for States that are candidates for membership to the UN Human Rights Council to do more to respect human rights at home and at the international level.

On 12 November, the United Nations General Assembly will elect 14 new members to the Human Rights Council; its top human rights body.

‘Elections to the Human Rights Council are a critical moment for the international community to hold States to account for their human rights records, and to deny membership to the most flagrant abusers,’ said Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights.

In a joint letter delivered by International Service for Human Rights on behalf of 40 signatories from all regions of the world, NGOs expressed concern about the clear failure of some candidates to fully comply with the criteria of upholding the highest human rights standards, and cooperating with the Human Rights Council.

‘Failure by Council members to take effective measures to address violations of human rights for which they are responsible, particularly of a gross or systematic nature, or to fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms undermines the ability of the Council to promote and protect human rights and to demand full state cooperation with its mechanisms,’ the letter says.

‘The unwillingness of candidates such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia to respect and support the important role played by civil society, non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders is deeply concerning,’ said Mr Lynch.

‘We are particularly outraged about a disturbing pattern of attacks, intimidation and violence against those who seek to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms, occurring in some candidate States as part of a worldwide trend,’ said Mr Lynch.

In the joint letter, global civil society called on candidates to clearly commit to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s human rights experts – the ‘special procedures’ – and with the newly established senior and UN wide focal point to improve the safety of those cooperating with the United Nations.

‘The UN depends heavily on the free and safe cooperation of human rights defenders for its effective functioning,” Mr Lynch said. “It’s therefore imperative that each candidate ensure that domestic legal provisions, promote and protect an independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society,’ he added.

‘The ability of the Council in protecting human rights is undermined if its members do not take effective measures to address violations of human rights for which they are responsible.’

The joint NGO letter was sent to all candidates to the Human Rights Council and copied to members of the UN General Assembly. It was initiated by ISHR and supported by leading NGOs.


Contacts: Phil Lynch – +41 76 708 47 38[email protected]; Michael Ineichen (Geneva) – +41 78 827 77 86[email protected]; Madeleine Sinclair (New York) – +1 (917) 5446148[email protected]


Individual letters were sent to every candidate, and are available here:

List of signatory organisations:

  1. Action Canada for Population and Development
  2. Amman Center for Human Rights Studies
  3. Amnesty International
  4. ARC International
  5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  7. Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
  8. Center for Reproductive Rights
  9. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  10. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  11. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
  12. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  13. Fondazione Marista per la Solidarieta Internazionale ONLUS
  14. Franciscans International
  15. Front Line Defenders
  17. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  18. Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
  19. Human Rights Watch
  20. International Association for Catholic Education
  21. International Catholic Child Bureau
  22. International Commission of Jurists
  23. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  24. International Federation of University Women (IFUW)
  25. International Lesbian and Gay Association
  26. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  27. International Service for Human Rights
  29. Lutheran World Federation
  30. Matrix Support Group
  31. Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders
  32. Pax Christi International
  33. Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO
  34. Public Union of Democracy and Human Rights Resource Centre
  35. Rainbow-Ethiopia HIV and Media Initiative (REHMI)
  36. Red Nacional de Promoción de la Mujer, RNPM-Perú
  37. Russian Research Center for Human Rights
  38. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
  39. World Federation of United Nations Associations
  40. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Additional signatories (as of 5 November 2013):

  1. Article 19
  2. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  3. Al-Haq
  4. Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)
  5. Access
  6. Peace Brigades International
  7. Reporters Without Borders


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