Bangladesh becomes UNHCR member

Brajesh Upadhyay, Washington
Published : 00:11, Oct 13, 2018 | Updated : 00:11, Oct 13, 2018

Despite objections from a few human rights groups, Bangladesh and India have secured a place on the top human rights body of the United Nations along with 16 other new members, after a vote on Friday morning. The 18 new members will serve three year terms in the 47-member Council.
All 18 new members were ushered onto the council without any contest as none of the regional groups offered any competition in their respective groups, a practice criticised by human rights groups as one of the main reasons "rights-abusing regimes" are able to secure seats.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) members are elected by absolute majority through a secret ballot and each country needs a minimum of 97 votes to get elected to the Council. Bangladesh was elected in the Asia-Pacific category along with India, Bahrain, Fiji and the Philippines.
Bangladesh secured 178 votes out of 193 and was elected unopposed and its tenure will begin from January 2019.
The Council was created in March 2006 as the principal United Nations body dealing with human rights and seats were allocated on the basis of equitable geographical distribution. Currently, African States and Asia-Pacific States have 13 seats each followed by 6 seats for Eastern European States, 8 seats for Latin American and Caribbean States, and 7 seats for Western European and other States.
All five regional groups submitted competition-free slates, meaning that all candidates, regardless of their rights records, were virtually assured seats on the council.
On the eve of the elections, three human rights groups released a joint report on all 18 members contesting for a place on the council, with an analysis of their human rights records in their respective countries.
The report, released by UN Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, concluded that six countries including Bangladesh "fail to qualify" under the criteria laid down by the UN General Assembly resolution that created the Human Rights Council. The other five countries on the "Unqualified" list are--Bahrain, Cameroon, Eritrea, Philippines and Somalia. The report put India under the "Questionable" category along with Burkina Faso, Fiji, and Togo saying they have problematic human rights and UN voting records. As per the report, only eight candidate countries were found to be qualified to be council members: Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy and Uruguay.
The report urged U.N. member states not to vote for the six “unqualified” countries. It cites extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances by government forces and restrictions on freedom of the speech and the press as some of the reasons for placing Bangladesh on the "unqualified" list. It warned that the results would severely undermine the Council's credibility.
Of all the annual elections held for the HRC since it was established, only the inaugural one in May 2006 saw contests in all five regional groups.
It may be recalled that the Trump administration withdrew the US from the Council recently citing the presence of member regimes with poor human rights records as one of the main reasons. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had alleged that Countries have colluded with one another to undermine the current method of selecting members.
“There is no fair or competitive election process,” he had said.
Analysts, however, say that US decision was also prompted by Donald Trump’s anger at sharp UN criticism of his administration’s human rights record, in particular at the US-Mexico border, and at the HRC’s perceived hostility towards Israel.