Statement From The Carter Center on Upcoming U.N. Human Rights Council Elections


The Carter Center calls on the General Assembly not to re-elect Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council in the upcoming Council elections. Recently adopted reforms of the former Commission on Human Rights, including competitive elections, call for the conduct of a government to be a factor in whether it is selected for a seat on the Council.

In a March 5, 2006, New York Times opinion piece on the establishment of the Council, five Nobel Laureates, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, wrote, "With these new procedures and the articulation for the first time of standards for membership, we believe the new body will be led by countries with a greater commitment to human rights." The expectation was that governments submitting their candidacies would be judged on their performance on human rights issues as a test of willingness to tackle tough problems and to assess honestly human rights violations wherever they occur.

Political resolve to abide by the new provision will be tested in the coming round of election to the Council's membership. Will candidates be judged by their peers on the basis of their commitments to improve human rights conditions in their countries? There must be no return to the old habit whereby regional blocs would offer uncontested slates for election, during which the merits of any country's particular qualifications for membership were never questioned.

Six countries -- Bahrain, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Timor Leste – are competing for four open seats in the Asian Group of U.N. member states. The Carter Center urges delegations to support the candidacies of Bahrain, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, and Timor Leste because these governments have demonstrated a greater commitment than has Sri Lanka to the advancement of human rights. However, numerous nongovernmental groups have raised concerns about Sri-Lanka's candidacy due to the country's deteriorating human rights record since its first election to the Council in 2006. For example, Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of enforced disappearances in the world, with little or no discernable commitment to accountability.

To re-elect states with deteriorating human rights records would undermine the Council at a time when it should be taking steps to shore its credibility as the principle platform for addressing human rights violations.

It is our hope that by electing states that demonstrate through their actions a commitment to furthering human rights, the Council will become a more courageous and united voice on behalf of victims of human rights violations.


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