China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Russia elected to top UN human rights body

China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia have won three-year seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia have been granted seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UNs’ top rights body, despite being among some of the worst abusers of human rights.

The Human Rights Council, elected annually, is a 47-seat body which also includes Algeria, Britain, France, Mexico, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Vietnam, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The resolution establishing the Human Rights Council states that “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

The newly elected countries will be on the council from 2014 until the end of 2016.

The decision has been strongly criticised by human rights organisations.

“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 of Human Rights Watch.

“Fortunately, no states have a veto in Geneva so a hard-working majority can still achieve concrete results,” she added.

According to Amnesty International’s 2012 report, in Cuba authorities “continued to stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly, in spite of the much publicized releases of prominent dissidents. Hundreds of pro-democracy activists and dissidents suffered harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest”.

In its most recent report on China it states that authorities “unleashed one of the harshest crackdowns on political activists, human rights defenders and online activists since the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations,” according to Amnesty.

And in Saudi Arabia “Women and girls faced severe discrimination in law and practice, as well as violence; increased campaigning for women’s rights resulted in arrests as well as some small improvements.”

Meanwhile, Russia is ranked 148th out of 179 countries on the World Press Freedom index, according to Reporters Without Borders, and has recently begun I high profile campaign of persecution against the country’s LGBT population.

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