USA to re-join Human Rights Council this year after walkout in 2018

In the absence of the US, most of the member countries had flocked towards China to gain favour, despite accusations against the country of human rights violations in many instances, including during its crackdown on Xinjiang and Tibet. 

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The United States is expected to join the United Nations Human Rights Council over three years after it had walked out from the assembly under former President Donald Trump’s reign in 2018. The US will be joining as part of the Western Group along with Finland and Luxembourg.

In the absence of the US, most of the member countries had flocked towards China to gain favour, despite accusations against the country of human rights violations in many instances, including during its crackdown on Xinjiang and Tibet. 

Meanwhile, the US, which had re-entered the council as an observing member earlier this year has been blamed for focusing on just China, according to Marc Limon, executive director of the Universal Rights Group think-tank in Geneva.

With the renewed presence of the United States in the council under President Joe Biden, countries fear that it will lead to a situation of polarization; the council will be dominated by the pro-US and pro-Chinese rivalry which might hinder the fundamental purpose of the organisation. 

The UN General Assembly is scheduled to elect 18 members for the 47-country Human Rights Council on Thursday, October 14. The countries will be elected for a term of three years commencing from January 1, 2022. 

The election for granting membership to the Human Rights Council is surrounded by other controversies as well. The election has been termed as noncompetitive by many diplomats and analysts as none of the five regional slates — Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern European and the Western Group — is in a competitive stance. All the groups have presented a total of 18 candidates for the same amount of seats available, thus guaranteeing a seat to each candidate. 

“The absence of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes a mockery of the word ‘election,’” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. He stated that electing serious rights abusers like Cameroon, Eritrea, and the UAE sends a terrible signal that UN member states are not serious about the council’s core mission to protect human rights.