Pledges of Human Rights Council Candidates vs. the Reality 2016

According to the UN General Assembly resolution that created the Council (A/RES/60/251, adopted March 15, 2006): "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 made thereto;"


The Human Rights Pledge of China
    "China attaches great importance to promoting and protecting human rights. Respect for and protection of human rights have been enshrined in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and China's national economic and social development plans. Combining universal principles of human rights with its own national conditions, China has been working vigorously to promote economic and social development, advance social equality and justice, strengthen legal guarantees for human rights and the rule of law and facilitate the comprehensive and coordinated development of economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. China has embarked on a path of human rights development suited to its own national conditions..."
    (Voluntary pledge for candidacy to Human Rights Council - China, A/71/294)

Some of what China neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "Repression and coercion markedly increased during the year against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest and ethnic minority issues. The crackdown on the legal community was particularly severe, as individual lawyers and law firms that handled cases the government deemed "sensitive" were targeted for harassment and detention, with hundreds of lawyers and law associates interrogated, investigated, and in many cases detained in secret locations for months without charges or access to attorneys or family members. Officials continued to harass, intimidate, and prosecute family members and associates to retaliate against rights advocates and defenders. Individuals and groups regarded as politically sensitive by authorities faced tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. Authorities resorted to extralegal measures, such as enforced disappearance and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent public expression of critical opinions... Authorities continued to censor and tightly control public discourse on the internet and in print and other media. There was severe official repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and assembly... Rights abuses in minority areas peaked around high-profile events, such as the visit of foreign officials, national meetings, commemorations, and high-profile trials.

    As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government and had limited forms of redress against official abuse. Other human rights abuses during the year included alleged extrajudicial killings; executions without due process; prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as "black jails"; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; detention and harassment of lawyers who took on "sensitive" cases, journalists, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others whose actions the authorities deemed unacceptable ; lack of due process in judicial proceedings; political control of courts and judges; closed trials; the use of administrative detention; failure to protect refugees and asylum seekers; extrajudicial disappearances of Chinese and foreign citizens; restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth-limitation policy that, despite the lifting of one-child-per-family restrictions, in some cases resulted in forced abortion (sometimes at advanced stages of pregnancy); and trafficking in persons..."
    (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices China 2015, U.S. Department of State)


The Human Rights Pledge of Cuba
    "3. Cuba remains committed to promoting consideration of the just historical demands of the peoples of the South and of the large majority worldwide on issues such as the effective realization of the right to development; combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and ensuring full respect for the principles of universality, indivisibility, objectivity and non-selectivity in strengthening cooperation on human rights matters. Cuba will continue to increase the attention paid to these just demands of individuals and peoples in its capacity as the main sponsor of some 10 draft resolutions in the Human Rights Council.

    4. Cuba reaffirms its readiness to continue working tirelessly to achieve the shared goal of enabling all individuals and peoples throughout the world to enjoy all human rights, on the basis of respect for the Charter of the United Nations, the internationally agreed human rights instruments and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Cuba reiterates its commitment to international cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights..."
    (Voluntary pledge for candidacy to Human Rights Council - Cuba, A/71/71)

Some of what Cuba neglected to mention in its pledge:
    The principal human rights abuses included the abridgement of the ability of citizens to choose their government; the use of government threats, physical assault, intimidation, and violent government-organized counterprotests against peaceful dissent; and harassment and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly.

    The following additional abuses continued: harsh prison conditions; arbitrary, short-term, politically motivated detentions and arrests; selective prosecution; denial of fair trial; and travel restrictions. Authorities interfered with privacy by engaging in pervasive monitoring of private communications. The government did not respect freedom of speech and press, restricted internet access, maintained a monopoly on media outlets, circumscribed academic freedom, and maintained some restrictions on the ability of religious groups to meet and worship. The government refused to recognize independent human rights groups or permit them to function legally. In addition the government continued to prevent workers from forming independent unions and otherwise exercising their labor rights.

    Officials at the direction of the government committed most human rights abuses. Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread..."
    (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Cuba 2015, U.S. Department of State)


The Human Rights Pledge of Egypt
    "1. With a belief in the importance of the visions and hopes of the people in shaping their future and the role of international cooperation in empowering States to fulfil the aspirations of their people in peace, security, development and human rights, Egypt would like to present its candidature for membership in the Human Rights Council for the period from 2017 to 2019.

    2. Egypt is a founding member of and an active player in the United Nations and other regional and international organizations. Egypt is a State party to almost all main international human rights instrumentsa and has an important continuous contribution in the formulation of the international human rights instruments and the global human rights agenda, including the establishment of the Human Rights Council and the formulation of its working mechanisms. It has never spared an opportunity to build bridges between different groups and cooperate with various stakeholders to promote and support the role of the Council and further the goals of the United Nations in the field of human rights, being one of the three pillars of the Organization...

    4. If elected to the Human Rights Council, Egypt will work constructively with all parties, on the basis of dialogue and cooperation towards better understanding and action, to remove obstacles to the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Egypt will also focus on the assistance needed for States to fulfil their human rights obligations, will confront human rights violations whenever and wherever they occur, will remain supportive of key thematic initiatives within the Council, including issues of special importance to countries in its regional and cultural spheres, and will continue to work on addressing emerging challenges while ensuring the full respect of international human rights law and addressing the root causes of such challenges. It will strive to ensure that due focus is given to a host of issues, including economic, social and cultural rights, gender equity, the empowerment of women and the enjoyment of human rights by children, youth, older persons, migrants and persons with disabilities..."
    (Voluntary pledge for candidacy to Human Rights Council - Egypt, A/71/406)

Some of what Egypt neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture. Due process problems included the excessive use of preventative custody and pretrial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians, and trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis. Civil liberties problems included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the press, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association.

    Other human rights problems included disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; a judiciary that in some cases appeared to arrive at outcomes not supported by publicly available evidence or that appeared to reflect political motivations; reports of political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on academic freedom; impunity for security forces; harassment of some civil society organizations; limits on religious freedom; official corruption; limits on civil society organizations; violence, harassment, and societal discrimination against women and girls, including female genital mutilation/cutting; child abuse; discrimination against persons with disabilities; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against religious minorities; discrimination and arrests based on sexual orientation; discrimination against HIV-positive persons; and worker abuse, including child labor..."
    (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Egypt 2015, U.S. Department of State)






The Human Rights Pledge of Russia
    "2. Russia worked hard to make the Council an efficient and effective tool for promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world during the three terms of its membership in the Council (2006-2009, 2009-2012 and 2013-2016), and during its year-long status as an observer (2013). The Russian Federation intends to take further steps to incorporate in the work of the Council the fundamental principles of universality, non-selectivity, objectivity, equal treatment of all categories of human rights, and respect for diversity of cultures and civilizations. The decision of Russia to present its candidature for election to the Council for the period 2017-2019 stems from the determination to pursue a fair, mutually respectful and equal dialogue on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    3. Russia is firmly attached to such fundamental values as freedom, justice, life, well-being and human dignity, family traditions, political equality, integrity of the court system, responsibility of leadership, social guarantees and the eradication of poverty and corruption. Russia is also firmly committed to its international obligations in the field of human rights. We continue to pursue a policy of further strengthening democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Our efforts at the domestic level are aimed, in particular, at the following: (a) Giving effect to the social guarantees embodied in the Constitution; (b) Ensuring the broad participation of citizens, political parties and other social institutions in shaping State policy, including decision-making; (c) Improving the legal system and promoting integrity of the court system in order to eradicate corruption and ensure the rule of law; (d) Further expanding economic and entrepreneurial freedom; (e) Supporting the national traditions and cultures of the peoples of Russia as a principal factor in harmony within society, unity of the nation and stable development of the country.

    4. At the international level, we see our tasks as the following: (a) To achieve respect for human rights and freedoms throughout the world through constructive international dialogue on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to utilize other possibilities in the field of human rights, including at the regional level, and to reject double standards and ensure respect for the national and historical characteristics of each State in the process of democratic transformations, without imposing borrowed value systems on anyone;..."
    (Voluntary pledge for candidacy to Human Rights Council - Russia, A/71/81)

Some of what Russia neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The most significant human rights problems during the year involved:

    1. Restrictions on the Ability to Choose One's Government and Freedoms of Expression, Assembly, Association, and the Media, as well as Internet Freedom: ... The government increasingly instituted a range of measures to suppress dissent. The government passed new repressive laws and selectively employed existing ones systematically to harass, discredit, prosecute, imprison, detain, fine, and suppress individuals and organizations engaged in activities critical of the government, including NGOs, independent media outlets, bloggers, the political opposition, and activists. Individuals and organizations that professed support for the government of Ukraine or opposed the Russian government's activities in Ukraine were especially targeted.

    2. Political Prosecutions and Administration of Justice: Officials denied due process to defendants in politically motivated cases...; secret detentions and convictions based on treason and espionage charges; ...; and criminal cases opened against several other political activists and human rights advocates. The government stymied and stigmatized the work of NGOs through the "foreign agents" law and adopted an "undesirable foreign organization" law targeting non-Russian NGOs. Authorities failed to bring to justice the individuals responsible for the deaths of prominent journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and opposition politicians.

    3. Government Discrimination against Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Sexual Minorities: The government continued to discriminate against and selectively prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; members of some religious and ethnic minorities; and migrant workers...

    Other problems reported during the year included allegations of torture and excessive force by law enforcement officials that sometimes led to deaths, prison overcrowding as well as substandard and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions, executive branch pressure on the judiciary; electoral irregularities, extensive official corruption, violence against women, limits on the rights of women (especially in the North Caucasus), trafficking in persons, discrimination against persons with disabilities, social stigmas against persons with HIV/AIDS, and limitations on workers' rights.

    The government failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity..."
    (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Russia 2015, U.S. Department of State)




The Human Rights Pledge of Saudi Arabia
    "1. The principles on which Saudi Arabia is founded are derived from the Islamic sharia, under which it is an obligation to protect human rights and to cooperate in the protection and promotion thereof. In view of that obligation, Saudi Arabia offers itself as a candidate for membership of the Human Rights Council for the period 2017-2019. Its candidacy is also based on its belief in the important role the Council plays in improving the situation of human rights in the world and in keeping with its responsibility to contribute to strengthening and enhancing the Council's performance, so that it can carry out its work without selectivity or politicization. It should be noted that Saudi Arabia has thrice served as a member of Council since its establishment in 2006 and served as an observer State in 2013. Saudi Arabia has made every effort to ensure the success of the Council's work, comply with its resolutions, cooperate with its mechanisms and contribute to enhancing its performance.

    2. The commitment of Saudi Arabia to promote and protect human rights at the national and international levels is an embodiment of the commitment to the constitutional principles on which governance in the country is based. The Basic Law of Governance, article 8, provides that government in Saudi Arabia shall be based on justice, consultation and equality, in accordance with the Islamic sharia. In addition, article 26 provides that the State must protect human rights, in accordance with the Islamic sharia. The Basic Law of Governance also includes other principles and provisions aimed at promoting and protecting human rights. Moreover, the commitment of Saudi Arabia to protecting human rights fulfils its undertakings pursuant to the human rights instruments to which it is a party. By promoting human-centred sustainable development efforts, the country continues to make progress in promoting and protecting human rights. That progress is further demonstrated by the strengthening of the legal and institutional framework of human rights, including through the enactment and development of human rights laws, the establishment of institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights, and the creation of effective means and mechanisms for redress, as well as other legislative and executive measures."
    (Voluntary pledge for candidacy to Human Rights Council - Saudi Arabia, A/71/72)

Some of what Saudi Arabia neglected to mention in its pledge:
    "The most important human rights problems reported included citizens' lack of the ability and legal means to choose their government; restrictions on universal rights, such as freedom of expression, including on the internet, and the freedoms of assembly, association, movement, and religion; and pervasive gender discrimination and lack of equal rights that affected all aspects of women's lives.

    Other human rights problems reported included: a lack of equal rights for children and noncitizen workers; abuses of detainees; overcrowding in prisons and detention centers; a lack of judicial independence and transparency that manifested itself in denial of due process and arbitrary arrest and detention; investigating, detaining, prosecuting, and sentencing lawyers, human rights activists, and antigovernment reformists; holding political prisoners; and arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence. Violence against women; trafficking in persons; and discrimination based on gender, religion, sect, race, and ethnicity, as well as a lack of equal rights for children and noncitizen workers were common. Lack of governmental transparency and access made it difficult to assess the magnitude of many reported human rights problems...

    The law and the guardianship system restrict women to the status of legal dependents vis-a-vis their male guardians. This status is unchanged, even after women reach adulthood. Women and some men faced widespread and state-enforced segregation based on societal, cultural, and religious traditions...

    The law does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The government enforced the law based on its interpretation of sharia, and courts often punished victims as well as perpetrators for illegal 'mixing of genders,' even when there was no conviction for rape. Victims also had to prove that the rape was committed, and women's testimony in court is worth half the weight of that of a man..."
    (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Saudi Arabia 2015, U.S. Department of State)