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South Africa elected to UN rights council, South Korea, Venezuela lose seats

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An overview of the special session on the situation in Ukraine of the Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday

The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday elected South Africa, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Romania and Vietnam to the Human Rights Council for a three-year term starting on Jan. 1, 2023.

Germany and Sudan also won second terms on the Geneva-based body, but South Korea and Venezuela failed to be re-elected. The 47-member council cannot make legally binding decisions, but its decisions carry political weight and it can authorize inquiries.

“It’s a mixed picture. Korea being out is quite a negative surprise but liberal democracies will be relieved that Venezuela is out,” said Olaf Wientzek, director of the Geneva office of Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Candidates are elected in geographical groups. There were two competitive races on Tuesday – among the Asia-Pacific and Latin American & Caribbean states – to elect 14 members. Members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.

Along with South Korea and Venezuela, Afghanistan also failed to win a seat.

Observers said the election was important since it could tip the power balance within a deeply divided council. Vote counts have been getting closer on key issues, and last week a Western-led coalition lost a call for a debate on accusations of Chinese abuses in Xinjiang by just two votes in an historic defeat.

Investigations mandated by the Human Rights Council are sometimes later used before national and international courts, such as such as in the case of a former Syrian intelligence officer jailed for state-backed torture in Germany in January.

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