Fiji Fails In Bid For UN Human Rights Council Seat

Fiji's bid for a seat has been controversial in light of allegations of security force brutality, PM's comments about same-sex marriage, and the detention of leading opposition figures

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, October 29, 2016) – Fiji has failed in its bid to gain membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council, receiving only six votes from the General Assembly's 193 members.

The assembly voted to elect 14 countries to serve a three-year term on the 47-member council by secret ballot on Friday in New York.

Fiji's Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, announced his country's intention to pursue one of four seats reserved for the Asia-Pacific region in October 2015, saying Fiji would champion the cause of small island developing states.

But Fiji received only six votes on Friday, losing out to China, Japan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, all of which received more than 150 votes each.

Other countries elected include Britain, the United States, Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Rwanda and Egypt.

Significantly, Russia narrowly lost its seat to represent Eastern Europe on the council by two votes to Croatia and 32 votes to Hungary, the first time a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council had lost a seat on the human rights council.

The council was established in 2006 as the United Nations body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights. Its responsibilities include establishing panels to investigate human rights abuses in specific countries.

Fiji's bid for a seat has been controversial at times, especially in light of allegations in the past year of brutality at the hands of security forces, the prime minister's controversial comments about same-sex marriage, and the detention of leading opposition figures last month.

But being a paragon of human rights rarely seems to be a requirement for membership of a council that has come under sustained criticism by rights groups for its admission of countries with poor rights records. Current members include Burundi, China, Saudi Arabia and Venzuela, among others.

Human rights advocates had previously hoped the council would launch an inquiry into abuses in Yemen, but that was blocked by Saudi Arabia, which is carrying out an air campaign in Yemen and was re-elected to the council on Friday.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch called for competitive elections for all geographic blocs.

Radio New Zealand International
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