, UNITED NATIONS, Nov 12 – China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba won seats on the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, despite fierce criticism of their records from rights campaigners.
The UN General Assembly elected 14 seats on the 47-member council which is taking on increased diplomatic importance because of the Syria war and other conflicts.
The council, which will start work on January 1, will be one of the most polarized since it was created in 2006.
France and Britain returned to the Geneva-based body.
South Africa, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Namibia, Maldives, Macedonia and Mexico also secured three year terms.
“With the return of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, human rights defenders will have their work cut out for them at the Human Rights Council next year,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
“States truly committed to advancing human rights will need to redouble their efforts on key issues, such as accountability in Sri Lanka, grave abuses in Central African Republic and the ongoing crisis in Syria,” she added.
Most of the seats were decided in advance as regional groups put forward the exact number of candidates for the seats allocated to their region.
Only two regions were contested. For two Latin America seats, Cuba won 148 votes, beating Mexico’s 145 and 139 for Uruguay.
South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, failed in its bid to get one of four seats for Africa. It got just 89 votes, the lowest of any nation in the vote.
South Africa was the leading nation from the region with 169 votes, ahead of Algeria on 164, Morocco on 163 and Namibia on 150.
The Asia-Pacific region was one of the most closely watched, because of China’s influence.
The Asian superpower was beaten by Vietnam which secured 184 votes against 176 for China, 164 for Maldives and 140 for Saudi Arabia.
In the vote for two Eastern European seats, Macedonia secured 177 votes ahead of Russia with 176.
In the Western European election, France, with 174 votes, and Britain, with 171, won a new term unopposed.