No Tranquil Joy In Croatia’s Victory Over Russia For Seat On UNHRC

United Nations General Assembly

United Nations General Assembly

Voting Russia out of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) for the first time in its history at the UN General Assembly Friday 28 October 2016 will not help the sorry image this UN body continues to have through re-electing countries with atrocious human rights records despite reinstating the US back into the council and voting Croatia (who beat Russia by a narrow margin of votes) in for the first time in its history as an independent country. Setting aside the sorry state of affairs this UN body represents when it comes to tolerance of human rights abuses, Croatia’s membership on the council adds flesh to Croatia’s position within the international political arena.

The re-election of China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia – regimes which systematically violate the human rights of their citizens – casts a shadow upon the reputation of the United Nations,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

Even though some are returning or serving for the second time the 2017 relative newcomers on UN Human Rights team will be: Brazil, China, Croatia, Cuba, Great Britain, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tunisia and the US. Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China, South Africa and Great Britain are already on the council and will be serving second terms.

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. The 47 places on the council are distributed on a regional basis, with staggered ballots seeing a third of the body re-elected each year. Russia had finished its three-year term and was running against Hungary and Croatia for the two available seats from Eastern Europe. Hungary became a fast leader in the group as far as votes were concerned last Friday while Croatia received the votes of 114 of the 193 member countries, thus leaving Russia last and out of the council as a representative for Eastern Europe.


Another noteworthy facet of the election was the large number of votes received by repressive autocracies – 180 votes for China, 173 for Egypt and 160 for Cuba. Although voting records are not known because the election is by secret ballot, those results mean that a majority of the free democracies in Europe believe countries like China deserve a seat on the HRC. Whether this has anything to do with human rights is anyone’s guessing game but one would probably place a sure bet on the prospect that money/investment potential China carries had a great deal to contribute to such ballot result for the realm of human rights kudos mere membership in UNHRC brings.


Perhaps the Council will this time around try influencing a better human rights record within the countries where such records are utterly appalling by acting more strongly from within the UN Council itself? US Secretary John Kerry did say on Friday that “while important challenges remain, including ending the council’s excessive and biased focus on Israel, we look forward to cooperating with other council members to address human rights concerns, advance human rights around the world, and ensure the Council fully realizes its purpose.” One could say that one purpose of the Council is indeed to try and ensure that countries with representatives on the Council actually do themselves represent good human rights practices.




UN September 2016 From Left: Miro Kovac (former foreign minister, Croatia), Vladmir Drobnjak - Croatian permanent representative at UN, Gordan Bakota, assistant to former foreign minister Photo: In preparing the document for Croatia’s candidacy as member of UNHRC Croatia’s former foreign minister Miro Kovac noted: “One of the greatest achievements of the development of human rights is the idea that human rights belong to everyone simply by virtue of being a member of the human family. Therefore, we all share great responsibility to protect, promote and advance human rights of all human beings, without any discrimination.”

UN September 2016
From Left: Miro Kovac (former foreign minister, Croatia),
Vladmir Drobnjak – Croatian permanent representative at UN,
Gordan Bakota, assistant to former foreign minister
In preparing the document for
Croatia’s candidacy as member of UNHRC
Croatia’s former foreign minister Miro Kovac
noted: “One of the greatest achievements
of the development of human rights
is the idea that human rights belong to
everyone simply by virtue
of being a member of the human family.
Therefore, we all share great responsibility
to protect, promote and advance human rights of all human
beings, without any discrimination.”

Voting Russia out the UN member states appear to have sent a strong message of disagreement with Russia’s support for the al-Assad regime that has evidently perpetrated so much atrocity in Syria recently, but also, one hopes, a message of disagreement with violations of human rights that are reportedly rife in Russia. Russia’s envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin scoffed off Russia’s loss at these council ballots:
It was a very close vote and very good countries competing, Croatia, Hungary. They are fortunate because of their size, they are not exposed to the winds of international diplomacy. Russia is very exposed. We’ve been in the UNHRC for several years, and I am sure next time we will stand and get back in,” he said, knowing that Russia is eligible to run next year, against a new set of countries.

This is the same Churkin who stood by Serbia’s side few years ago peddling lies regarding the 1995 Operation Storm that liberated Croatia from Serb occupation, refusing to accept the International Criminal Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber verdict that acquitted Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of all charges.

With Saudi Arabia gliding through with 152 votes one simply knows that voting Russia out has nothing to do with any unity this General Assembly practices when it comes to condemning all human rights violations around the world. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International produced a joint statement earlier this year condemning Saudi Arabia for “an appalling record of violations” in Yemen, where it has conducted a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels since 2015, which has resulted in the deaths of up to 4,000 civilians. Their calls for Saudi Arabia to be suspended from the UNHRC have fallen on deaf ears.

Over the next term, which will last between 2017 and 2019, the 14 newly chosen members will be tasked with formulating the UN’s official position on conflicts occurring around the world, as well as the domestic policies of member states. Given the above blatant inconsistencies in voting in or out countries with appalling human rights violations one doubts such a council can come up with any politically or otherwise unbiased position on conflicts and human rights violations sanctions. One can expect that Saudi Arabia will persist in its refusals of visits from UNHRC inspections of its justice system, incidences of torture, and discrimination.

The non-election of Russia shows that the nations of the world can reject gross abusers if they so choose,” said executive director of UN Watch Hillel Neuer. “This makes the election of Saudi Arabia, China and Cuba even more preposterous.”

UN General Assembly 28 October 2016 Photo: Reuters/Brenden McDermid

UN General Assembly
28 October 2016
Photo: Reuters/Brenden McDermid

Croatia, Iraq and Rwanda were elected for the first time. Given the history of conflicts and aggression in those countries as the 20th century drew close to its end standing on the sidelines one could see the input these countries can contribute to addressing the conflicts in the world. Exclusion of Russia from this body smells of strategic moves orchestrated take down a notch or two Russia’s seemingly rising influence as an international peacemaker.

UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 states that “when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments thereto” (Paragraph 8). These appear to be the only stated criteria for membership in the Council. The pledge states that the country will uphold international standards of human rights and enumerates actions undertaken by that state in advancing and protecting human rights. It typically includes a listing of their involvement in international institutions. In addition, candidates must accept that they will be subjected to periodic peer-reviews of their human rights record if they gain a seat on the Council. Obviously, not much compliance with its own resolutions goes on within the UNGA chamber.


The election of the Republic of Croatia into this respected forum represents a significant achievement and result of its internationally recognised engagement in the promotion of the nobility of the idea of human rights – ‘for all people, in all circumstances and without discrimination’”, says in the press release dated 29 October 2016 issued by the Croatian foreign ministry and European affairs office. “Croatia’s priority activities will also be thematically directed upon battles against all forms of discrimination and crimes of hate, as well as upon effective protection of all victims in conflicts, protecting the dignity of and the right to life of every human being. The membership on the council is, at the same time, and opportunity for Croatia to spread the examples of its good practices in the area of promoting and protecting human rights,” the press release continues.

While it’s great to have hope and bright intentions for the uplifting of access to human rights everywhere having Croatia on that UN council does little for my personal pride simply because the council itself is a reflection of the UN General Assembly it’s sourced from: a melting pot of utter and bloody violations of human rights and clashes for political supremacy at the expense of human rights. Regretfully, judging by its current composition that includes some of the worst human rights violators, the council is unlikely to change the sorry picture of human rights abuses in the world no matter how hard my little Croatia might try to make a positive footprint. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)




  1. Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

  2. Well at least you won, it is true that the UN has failed before, is still failing and will continue to fail in the future, but their prestige is still a fact, and now you have a seat in the UNHRC while a Security Council permanent member suddenly doesn’t. This kind of change is like Liu Bei’s rise from shoemaker to Emperor of Shu- Han (controlling about 1/3 of China) during the chaos of the waning years of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Opportunities of such caliber don’t come easy. Remember, just a generation ago, even whether you could be a state at all was uncertain. In the end, power is often 99 percent ugly, but if wielded wisely, could help the people greatly. So I feel you should be very proud, since those who will sin will sin anyways, but now you have a rare voice in a famed forum to further humanitarian policies. Even if reforms amount to nothing, the seat could help build Croatia’s reputation and even if all the proposals fall flat, in Buddhism, as long as the right thing is being done, merit is accrued regardless of success or failure.


  3. Funnily enough Ina, I was discussing this very issue with the Croation President last night at a candlelit supper for two at her place. After we finished dessert, she said to me “Your eyes look so lovely by candlelight my darling”
    I hurriedly made my excuses and left

  4. Good Morning Ina !
    Aliosa 🙂

  5. Who shall cast the first stone? It is all relative, some countries are worse than others, few if any are perfect.

    • Indeed, BorisB, but since it’s all gone where we don’t want it, we should work at becoming perfect when it comes to human rights especially

  6. From Facebook:You can not take any suggestions from this body until the likes of Saudi Arabia are first kicked out of the commission and then forced to clean up their act.

  7. Great news!

  8. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    Kudos to Croatia for being elected to the human Rights Council. Hopefully for Cuba and China to hear what they will be talked about will start to make in roads into their thinking. Perhaps Russia will see this as a reminder that they must work with the countries of the world and cannot be a bully. The world has had enough of them. Hugs, Barbara

  9. They have made themselves a mockery including such countries as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Cuba – etc… What’s the point when they have no integrity, plech

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