AU: Don’t Endorse Sudan, Ethiopia for Rights Council: Competitive Elections for UN Body Would Improve Membership

Foreign ministers of African Union (AU) member states should reconsider a decision that would allow Sudan and Ethiopia to gain uncontested seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council, a group of African and international civil society organizations said yesterday in a letter. The AU is meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from July 9 to 16, 2012.

The UN General Assembly resolution that established the Human Rights Council states that members shall uphold the “highest standards” of human rights, but Sudan and Ethiopia fall far short of that threshold, the organizations said.

“States like Sudan and Ethiopia with records of grave human rights violations should not be rewarded with seats on the Human Rights Council,” said Hassan Shire Sheikh, director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. “By endorsing their questionable candidacies, the AU would undermine the work of the council by tarnishing its membership, and turn its back on victims of abuses in these countries.”

The makeup of the Human Rights Council reflects the UN’s geographic composition, with seats allotted by regional group. Five of the 18 seats for which new members are to be elected to the 47-member council in November are allotted to African states. The African Group put forward a “clean slate” with as many candidates as the number of reserved seats: Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Sierra Leone, and Sudan.Without competitive elections, states are deprived of the chance to select the candidates best suited to serve on the council.The civil society groups urged the AU to support competition among African states for seats on the council and ensure that candidates are elected on the basis of their human rights records.“States should earn their seats on the Human Rights Council,” said Philippe Bolopion, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “A little bit of healthy competition would help ensure that only those most serious about human rights get a seat at the table.”

To read the letter to AU foreign ministers, please visit:


Human Rights Defender of the month: Kasale Maleton Mwaana

Kasale’s human rights activism precedes his years. The son of pastoralist parents from Ngorongoro district in northern Tanzania, he grew up seeing his parents and entire community having to defend their land and way of life against authorities who thought their lands could be put to better use. Now, at 25, Kasale is already one of the most recognizable advocates of his people’s cause, much to the ire of Tanzanian authorities.
“Our people’s struggle goes back many generations. It started with the pushing out of our forefathers from Serengeti to gazette Serengeti National Park in 1959, and then further evictions from the Ngorongoro crater to gazette the Ngorongoro conservation area in 1975. Since then, every generation has had to resist further evictions. It’s now my generation’s turn,” he says.