The United States and Eritrea are elected members of the United Nations Human Rights Council

The United States was re-elected Thursday as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, three and a half years after its withdrawal from it, and the United Nations General Assembly also chose Eritrea, often criticized for its human rights record, to fill the position. seat on the council.

All 18 countries that ran for 18 vacant seats in the council were elected by secret ballot, and their mandate is scheduled to begin on January 1, at the council's headquarters in Geneva.

Eritrea's accession to the 47-member council raises again the question of the existence of authoritarian regimes that violate human rights in the highest human rights body of the United Nations.

"The Chinese and all those who are basically not in favor of human rights as Europeans see them (...) are against economic, social and cultural rights," a European diplomat told AFP. This does not date back to the present, but the tendency is undeniably strengthened.”
Another European diplomat said that "China's goal is simple: to destroy the principle of the universality of human rights and to spread a vision consistent with its political system."

In recent years, China and its partners, including Belarus and Venezuela, have intensified joint statements in support of Beijing's actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet and denounced "human rights violations" in Western countries, including against indigenous Canadians.

Observers fear that the return of the Americans will reinforce the increasing polarization, although others point out that the United States does not need to be present in the room to exercise its influence.

"With the five (permanent) members of the Security Council in the Human Rights Council, we can actually believe that the Chinese and Americans will not exchange gifts and will use the Council as an arena where they will display their rivalries," the first European diplomat said.

In a statement welcoming Washington's return to the council, the US Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Linda Thomas Greenfield, stressed that China remains a source of great concern to the United States.

"Our first efforts as a full member of the Council will focus on what we can achieve in situations where it is most needed, such as Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen," she said.

Mark Lemon, head of the Geneva-based think-tank Universal Rights Group, lamented that the United States had been "basically focused on China" since its return as an observer to the Human Rights Council this year.

He told AFP that "many countries are fed up because they do not want to see the multilateral system as a hostage," calling on Washington to expand issues to restore the support of developing countries that have turned toward Beijing.

For his part, the Chinese delegate to the United Nations in Geneva, Chen Shuo, expressed his hope that the United States, with its return to the council, will be able to "conduct a constructive dialogue and try not to make human rights a political tool."

"We are ready to continue this approach, which is based on promoting dialogue, opposing politicization, and trying to shed more light on the needs of developing countries," he told reporters accredited to the United Nations in Geneva.

Members of the Human Rights Council, whose seats are divided into five regional groups, are elected for a term of three years by absolute majority and by secret ballot. Only one-third of the council's members are renewed each year.

Other countries elected by the General Assembly are Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates.

NGOs have accused regional groups of fielding as many candidates as the number of vacant seats in what UN Watch called an “electoral farce” and of failing to end the candidacy of authoritarian states.

It's the "responsibility" of the regions, Geneva director Josh Fischer told AFP, referring to nominations by Eritrea, Cameroon and the United Arab Emirates.

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