UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Libya and Thailand were among 14 countries elected as new members of the U.N.’s top human rights body Thursday in a vote that rights advocates criticized as uncompetitive and “pre-cooked.”
Angola, Mauritania, Uganda, the Maldives, Malaysia, Qatar, Moldova, Poland, Ecuador, Guatemala, Spain and Switzerland were also elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms on the 47-nation Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva.
Both Libya and Thailand have been criticized by rights groups for their human rights records.
“The council elections have become a pre-cooked process that strips the meaning from the membership standards established by the General Assembly,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
“States serious about the role the council can play in promoting human rights should push for competitive slates in all regions, and should be willing to compete for a seat themselves,” she said.
Of the 14 states elected to the council, Libya received the fewest votes from members of the 192-nation General Assembly — 155 — but well over the 50 percent threshold needed to secure a seat.
Without naming any specific countries, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made it clear she was not happy with some of Washington’s new fellow council members.
“It’s fair to say that this year, there is a small number of countries whose human rights records is problematic that are likely to be elected and we regret that,” she said.
Last year the United States successfully campaigned for a seat on the council, which conducts periodic reviews of member states’ compliance with international laws but is criticized for being anti-Israeli and soft on authoritarian governments.
When Washington decided to join, Rice and U.S. President Barack Obama said it would be better to try to change the body from within. Rice said Washington was still working to achieve that goal.
“It will take time, no doubt, for our efforts and those of others to bear fruit and it’s not a task that the United States can accomplish on its own,” she told reporters. “But we remain committed to strengthening and reforming this council.”
Iran also had been running for a seat on the council, but it withdrew its candidacy last month in exchange for a seat on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
Western diplomats in New York said Iran pulled out of what had been a competitive slate for the Asia group’s four open slots when it became clear it would lose.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York last week that the withdrawal was a “procedural” matter and the Islamic Republic was pleased to serve on the U.N. women’s commission.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Paul Simao