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UN Human Rights Council Elections for 2022-2024 and the Responsibility to Protect

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Today, 14 October, the UN General Assembly elected Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, The Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America to the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2022-2024 term. With the elections of Argentina, Finland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar and the United States of America, 19 of the 47 Council members in 2022 will be “Friends of the Responsibility to Protect” – having appointed an R2P Focal Point and/or joined the Group of Friends of R2P in New York and Geneva.

The Human Rights Council and its mechanisms and procedures – including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), investigative mechanisms, special procedures and treaty bodies, as well as the technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – all play an essential role in providing early warning of the risk factors that can lead to crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide, and provide recommendations to prevent their recurrence.

The election of Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates – states that have a history of violating human rights and perpetrating atrocities at home or abroad – undermines the credibility of the HRC. States elected to the HRC are supposed to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards of human rights, including their full cooperation with all UN mechanisms. These are conditions set forth in UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251. The fact that potential mass atrocity crimes are being perpetrated by a number of HRC member states is deeply disturbing.

Since 2008, the HRC has referred to states’ responsibility to protect their populations in 62 thematic and country resolutions. But more work needs to be done to turn early warning into timely preventive action. In this regard, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect encourages all HRC members to:

    • Improve the link between human rights and peace and security:
      • Ask the UN Secretary-General to bring to the attention of the Security Council relevant decisions and reports by the HRC;
      • Encourage the UN General Assembly to ensure information collected by HRC-mandated special procedures and international investigative mechanisms, is relayed to the Security Council in a timely manner;
      • Encourage the Security Council to request regular briefings by OHCHR and relevant HRC mechanisms and procedures;
      • Promote continued dialogue on human rights and the prevention of mass atrocities.
    • Make better use of the UPR to detect early warning signs of potential mass atrocity crimes:
      • In preparation for your national report, consider what action your government has taken to uphold its primary responsibility to protect all populations in your territory;
      • Use the UPR to ask relevant questions regarding the ratification and implementation of core human rights treaties, as well as regarding risk factors related to systematic violations and abuses of human rights.
    • Ensure the HRC responds in a timely and effective manner to atrocity situations:
      • Actively support the adoption of resolutions addressing serious violations of human rights;
      • Support HRC-mandated investigative mechanisms;
      • Mandate that special procedures and investigative mechanisms conduct country-specific atrocity risk assessments, including by utilizing the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes;
      • Where an imminent risk of mass atrocity crimes is detected, hold a special session in order to help mobilize appropriate international diplomatic action.
    • Make use of the Irish Principles, which lay out independent and objective considerations to guide decisions on whether and when the HRC should respond to a country-specific situation.

The Global Centre has compiled profiles on each of the newly elected Human Rights Council members. These provide a basic overview of their commitment to prevent mass atrocities by protecting and promoting human rights.