Monday, November 12, 2012 -
Kazakhstan was elected to the UN Human Rights Council for a two-year term along with 17 other states on Monday.
The country will begin its term in January 2013.
Other states elected to the body included: Germany, Ireland, the U.S., Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Pakistan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Venezuela, among others.
“We are pleased to have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council,” Kazakh foreign affairs ministry spokesman Altay Abibullayev said in a statement.
“But we do not see it solely as a badge of honor. We see it as an opportunity to contribute to global efforts to make progress in this crucial field.”
Kazakhstan has come under fire in recent months for its treatment of striking oil workers, labor lawyers, and political dissidents, who are often charged on baseless counts and jailed for years.
Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights watchdog, said the election of states with flawed human rights records weakens the council, and blames ‘limited competition in elections’ for this outcome.
“To call the vote in the General Assembly an ‘election’ gives this process way too much credit,” HRW’s global advocacy director Peggy Hicks said.
“Until there is real competition for seats in the Human Rights Council, its membership standards will remain more rhetoric than reality.”
In related UN news, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan were elected on Thursday to the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with two other states.
Kuwait and Nepal were also elected to the body. Four Asian states – Iraq, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Mongolia – are vacating their seat on the council on December 31 after each serving a three-year term. Fifty-four states serve on ECOSOC at a given time, while 18 states were newly elected last week.
Asian states take up 11 seats of the 154.
Kyrgyzstan received 164 votes to join the body, which will be the first time in its 20-year history of UN membership that it is included among ECOSOC members.
The Kyrgyz foreign ministry said the election “is an important success of the state in its foreign policy, as well as confirmation of the support from the international community to the social, economic, and democratic reforms in the country.”
Turkmenistan, though expressly neutral in foreign relations, has increasingly worked with the UN since President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov took the reins in 2006, and has played host to several UN-sponsored conferences over the years.