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UN Human Rights Council

Context:

Recently, The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was scheduled to vote on a draft resolution to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the global response to the alleged war crimes in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv, where more than 300 bodies of civilians have been found after the withdrawal of the Russian forces.

Relevance:

GS II- International Relations (Bilateral Groupings & Agreements)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About UN Human Rights Council
  2. Working of the Council
  3. Membership
  4. Issues

About UN Human Rights Council:

  • The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
  • It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year.
  • It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.

Working of the Council

  • The Human Rights Council replaced the former UN Commission on Human Rights.
  • It was created by the UNGA on March 15, 2006, and the body met in its first session from June 19-30, 2006.
  • In 2007, the Council adopted an “institution-building package” to set up its procedures and mechanisms.
  • Among these were the mechanism of Universal Periodic Review to assess the human rights situations in all UN Member States, the Advisory Committee that serves as the Council’s think tank providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues, and the Complaint Procedure, which allows individuals and organisations to bring human rights violations to the Council’s attention.
  • The Council also works with the UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights, consisting of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts, and working groups that monitor, examine, advise and report on thematic issues or human rights situations in specific countries.

Membership

  • The Council is made of 47 Member States, which are elected by the majority of members of the General Assembly of the United Nations through direct and secret ballot.
  • The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.

The Council’s Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution. Seats are distributed as follows:

  • African States: 13 seats
  • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  • Western European and other States: 7 seats
  • Eastern European States: 6 seats

Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

Issues:

  • A key concern for some critics has been the composition of Council membership, which sometimes includes countries widely perceived as human rights abusers.
  • China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela, all of which have been accused of human rights abuses.
  • US pulled out of the Agency in 2018 due to its disproportionate focus on Israel, which has received by far the largest number of critical council resolutions against any country.
  • The US has joined the organization again.

-Source: Indian Express

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