By Emil Danielyan
A Western non-governmental organization monitoring the United Nations has placed Armenia on a blacklist of 28 countries which it says are “unfit” to sit on the new UN Human Rights Council that was due to be elected late Tuesday.
The Geneva-based UN Watch claimed that the Armenian government’s human rights record does not differ markedly from that of “egregious human rights violators” like China, Cuba or Saudi Arabia.
The UN General Assembly decided to form the new body last March in place of its discredited Human Rights Commission. Sixty-four countries have put forward their names for the council's 47 seats allocated by region. Armenia needs at least 96 votes -- an absolute majority of the General Assembly's 191 members -- to win one of the six seats reserved for Eastern Europe.
“The Republic of Armenia is strongly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and has worked constructively and consistently to this end at the national, regional and international levels,” the Armenian mission at the UN headquarters in New York said in a letter to the General Assembly president last month.
This assertion is at odds with negative assessments of Yerevan’s human rights records that have long been made by Western governments and non-governmental organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They have been particularly critical of the Armenian authorities’ failure to tackle widespread police brutality and other violations of the due process of law.
In a report released last week, UN Watch, which was founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter, examined each of the 64 countries seeking to join the Human Rights Council and rejected the candidacies of 28 of them, including Armenia. The blacklist also includes Azerbaijan, Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The UN Watch executive director, Hillel Neuer, reaffirmed the Geneva-based group’s demands for their exclusion from the new UN body in a separate statement issued ahead of Tuesday’s General Assembly vote. "Some of the most egregious and systematic human rights violators - including China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and possibly even Holocaust-denying Iran - will win election to the Council," he said. "If so, it will be an ominous sign that the Council is - as some of us had worried - nothing more than the same old Commission by another name."
Incidentally, Armenia was elected to the now defunct commission in May 2001 along with several African nations described by Human Rights Watch as a “rogue gallery of human rights abusers.” By contrast, the United States was controversially voted off the Geneva-based body at the time.
Armenia was reelected to the commission in 2005 and even briefly served as its vice chairman until its dissolution in March.