US rejoins UN Human Rights Council after Trump era walkout

The council in Geneva is made up of 47 member states elected by the UN General Assembly in New York.
The council in Geneva is made up of 47 member states elected by the UN General Assembly in New York.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The United States on Thursday (Oct 14) was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council 3½ years after its dramatic walkout, while the UN General Assembly also chose Eritrea, often criticised for alleged rights abuses, to take a seat.

All 18 candidate countries were elected for the 18 spots on offer – they take up their seats on the UN’s top rights body, which is based in Geneva, on January 1.

The United States – which under previous president Donald Trump quit the council in 2018, accusing it of hypocrisy and obsession with haranguing Israel – received 168 votes, while Eritrea got 144.

Other states elected by a majority of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly are: Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates.

China and some of its allies including Belarus and Venezuela have taken advantage of the US absence from the council to push through joint statements supporting Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, and denouncing “human rights violations” in Western countries, including against indigenous Canadians.

For Thursday’s vote, non-governmental organisations accused regional groups of stitching up a “legitimising facade” rather than a genuine contest at the council, by presenting the same number of candidates as vacant seats.

The council is made up of 47 member states. For years, the body has been criticised for allowing authoritarian governments to take part.