UAE wins seat on UN Human Rights Council garners highest Asia vote

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The United Arab Emirates succeeded on Monday in its bid for election to the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council for a three-year term starting from early 2013.

The Gulf state was elected in a secret ballot conducted by the U.N. General Assembly in which 21 candidate countries from 18 geographical groups competed for 18 vacant seats.

The UAE got 184 votes, the highest vote turnout of the total votes garnered by the four winning Asian countries and the second highest votes of the total 18 winners.

Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, and Sierra Leone were elected from Africa, and Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Korea joined the United Arab Emirates from the Asia Group.

Estonia and Monte Negro were elected from Eastern Europe, while Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela secured seats on behalf of the Latin America and Caribbean Group.

The UAE foreign affairs minister, Anwar Mohammad Gargash, welcomed the UAE’s victory.

“The win crowned a series of achievements made by the UAE in its human rights record over the recent years, particularly in areas of legislations to uphold and protect fundamental freedoms and legal rights of individuals, rights of women and children and advanced regulations on rights of foreign workforce,” the official said, according to AFP news agency.

He added: ‘The UAE win of the seat for the next three years will lay on our shoulder additional onus and commitment to stay our course firmly in consistence with constitutional principleson which the UAE state is built and which place respect for human rights at the top of national priorities.’’

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly also elected 17 other countries for terms beginning in January. The United States won the most votes of the regional group “Western Europe and Others,” followed by Germany and Ireland.

‘Excessive, unbalanced focus on Israel’

The United States succeeded in its bid for re-election to the Council, a Geneva-based watchdog that has been criticized by Washington and Israel for singling out the Jewish state for criticism.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington’s re-election, saying that the Human Rights Council “has delivered real results” since the United States first joined it in 2010 after running for a seat on it in 2009. She cited council action on Syria as a positive example of its work.

However, she criticized the rights council’s “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel,” according to Reuters news agency.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed Rice’s comments.

“We pledge to continue to work closely with the international community to address urgent and serious human rights concerns worldwide and to strengthen the (rights) council,” Clinton said in a statement.

The United States had boycotted the Human Rights Council until 2009, when the administration of President Barack Obama reversed U.S. policy and ran for a seat on the body in an effort to reform it from within.

Greece and Sweden failed to secure spots on the council in the “Western Europe and Others” category, the only regional group that had a competitive slate. Other regional groups had uncompetitive slates that assured victory for those in the running as there were enough seats for all candidates.

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