Member from same region to fill US seat in HR Council: UN

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United Nations, June 21 (IANS) The seat in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) vacated by the US will be filled by a member from the same regional group.

A spokesman for Miroslav Lajcak, President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), announced this on Wednesday.

The General Assembly resolution that established the Human Rights Council in 2006 does not contain any reference to possible withdrawal by members from the council, said Brenden Varma, the spokesman.

But the resolution provides for geographic distribution of the 47 members of the council, he said. Therefore, the vacancy left by the US will have to be filled through election in the General Assembly of a candidate from the Western European and others group, he said.

As the US is the first member to withdraw from the Human Rights Council, there is no past practice in terms of procedures for withdrawal or for replacement, said Varma. “Now we are looking into possible next steps.”

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But as the first step, he said, the General Assembly is waiting for the official notification of the US on its withdrawal.

On reports of Russia putting itself forward for candidature, Varma said the country does not qualify as it was not from the concerned regional group.

Notification of candidature would normally go to the UN Secretariat before the General Assembly President can decide on an election. There is no timeframe for such an election, said Varma.

It remains unclear where a replacement will be determined as the current session of the General Assembly is wrapping up its business.

The members of the UN Human Rights Council are elected each year in the General Assembly for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis. The US was in the middle of its 2016-19 term when it announced its withdrawal on Tuesday.

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Lajcak regretted the US withdrawal.

“The President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, regrets the decision of the US to withdraw from the Human Rights Council,” Varma said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also regretted the US decision.

“The secretary-general would have much preferred for the US to remain in the Human Rights Council. The UN’s Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide,” said a spokesman for Guterres.

–IANS

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