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Human rights campaigners pleaded with EU states to withdraw their support of China and Russia joining the UN board. The Geneva-based group UN Watch branded the situation as equivalent to letting arsonists into the fire brigade due to the countries records on human rights abuses.
On Tuesday China and Russia won seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) however Saudi Arabia, who were also in the running, lost.
The UNHRC is a UN body which aims to promote and protect human rights across the world by investigating alleged breaches.
The board has 47 members who have been elected for three-year terms but not all at the same time.
There are 15 seats available on the council this time around grouped into five regions.
Due to secretive behind the scenes deals, the only regional group which seats were being contested were in Asia and the Pacific.
Five candidates were competing for four available seats in this region.
A candidate needs at least 96 affirmative votes from countries in order to win a seat.
China managed to take one of the seats on Tuesday despite being accused of several human rights violations.
China has been accused of targeting its Uighur minority in what experts are calling a genocide.
Human rights groups have said that at least a million Uighur people have been incarcerated in China’s “re-education” system.
Russia has also been accused of silencing political opposition.
The country allegedly used a nerve agent recently to poison government critic Alexei Navalny.
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At a UN Watch briefing, Yang Jianli, the president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and a former political prisoner, said: “China was involved in the annihilation of political freedom in Hong Kong.
“By any standards China has grossly abused the UN human rights founding principles.
“If this were an election for a UN human rights abuser’s council, it would be more than proper to vote for China, since it leads the world in violating human rights.”
He added that democracies had a duty to vote against China.
He also said that those victims of human rights abuses in China deserved to know how the countries voted in the secret ballot.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian dissident who was twice poisoned, said UN watchers are not surprised since Libya, Sudan and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had previously been appointed seats on the board.
Speaking before the vote, he added: “Yet we still find it astonishing that Russia is considered a legitimate candidate let alone that it is likely to be elected.
“It has … been confirmed … that Alexei Navalny has been poisoned by a highly controlled military grade nerve agent produced by the Russian state that has been used for years by the Russian security services, leaving no doubt who was behind this attack.”
Mr Kara-Murza also highlighted how the UN states that countries on the council must “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”.
He added: “If this is to have any meaning the worst abusers of human rights should not be allowed to be given a seal of approval.”
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