Costa Rica wins seat on U.N. Rights Council

Six countries, including Costa Rica, that have never previously served on the United Nations Human Rights Council are among 15 new members of the Geneva-based body after a round of balloting among U.N. member states Friday.

Nicaragua failed to win election.

The other five successful candidates are Austria, Benin, Botswana, the Republic of Congo and Kuwait. They will make their debut on the council next month, starting three-year terms on the 47-member panel that allots seats according to a formula based on world regions.

The other newly elected members — although they have previously completed stints since the council was created in 2006 — are Burkina Faso, Chile, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Peru, Philippines and Romania.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss announced the results of the voting, which was conducted by secret ballot at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Four countries were elected in the African category, four in the Asian States grouping and three from Latin America and the Caribbean, while two countries were chosen from Eastern Europe and two from the Western European and other states grouping.

In the Eastern European category, Georgia was unsuccessful. Only two of five regions put forth competition slates, noted Human Rights Watch. One region was Latin Ameican and the Caribbean, which had four candidates, including Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

“Without competition for seats on the Human Rights Council, the membership standards set by the General Assembly become meaningless,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Manufactured slates of candidates may be easier for states, but they are bad for the council.”

Ten of the 15 countries elected were virtually assured of success because there was no competition for the seats assigned to their regions. Under the current system, states are reluctant to compete for seats on the council, and states challenging endorsed candidates face both stigma and concrete repercussions, Human Rights Watch said.

The problem was evident this year when no country was willing to challenge Syria’s candidacy within the Asian regional group despite Syria’s brutal crackdown on demonstrations that has resulted in the reported deaths of more than 800 people. Human rights groups from around the world had appealed to no avail for other states in the Asian group to enter the race, Human Rights Watch noted.

The Asian group ultimately avoided the travesty of Syria being elected only by convincing Syria to withdraw on May 11 and nominating Kuwait in its stead, Human Rights Watch noted. Kuwait was elected from the Asia group Friday along with India, Indonesia, and the Philippines without opposition.

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