China, Cuba and Russia were elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, drawing calls from Israel and the US for the UN body to reform.

The 193-member UN General Assembly also elected Ivory Coast, Gabon, Malawi, Cuba, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, France and Britain to the 47-member council. Senegal, Nepal, Pakistan, Ukraine and Mexico were re-elected for a second three-year term. Council members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.

Both China and Russia have been criticised internationally for their human rights records. Most recently, China has been condemned by Western countries for its treatment of Uighur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region and handling of pro-democracy protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said on Tuesday, “Today’s Human Rights Council elections prove once again that this council has nothing to do with protecting human rights and everything to do with violating them.”

“Since 2006, the council has adopted 90 resolutions condemning Israel, more than all the resolutions against Syria, North Korea and Iran, combined,” he noted. “The obsessive focus on Israel, along with its protection of oppressive, dictatorial regimes, shows that the Human Rights Council is in the business of white-washing the crimes of these countries. I call on all democracies that are still members of the council to immediately resign from this shameful and antisemitic body.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “In 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council due to its well-established pattern of anti-Israel bias and membership rules that allow the election of the world’s worst human rights abusers to seats on the Council. Prior to making this decision, and after our exit, the United States has urged UN member states to take immediate action to reform the Council before it became irreparable. Unfortunately, those calls went unheeded, and today the UN General Assembly once again elected countries with abhorrent human rights records, including China, Russia, and Cuba. Venezuela was elected in 2019.”

He added, “These elections only further validate the US decision to withdraw and use other venues and opportunities to protect and promote universal human rights.”

Candidates are elected by secret ballot in geographical groups to ensure even representation. The Asia-Pacific group, which included Saudi Arabia, was the only competitive race on Tuesday with five candidates vying for four seats. The new members will begin their term on Jan. 1, 2021.

Saudi Arabia received 152 votes when it was last elected in 2016 to be a council member from 2017 to 2019, but on Tuesday only 90 states voted for Riyadh — a 40 percent drop. While China was elected on Tuesday with 139 votes, its support fell more than 20 percent compared to the last time it won a seat in 2016.

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