GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council has elected Fiji’s ambassador to the presidency in an unprecedented secret referendum in 2021 after blocking a routine consensus decision following the closure of the diplomatic stand.
Fiji’s ambassador to Geneva, Nuzhat Shamim Khan, who serves as the council’s vice president in 2020 and is considered a rights champion, won with 29 of 47 votes. He ran against two other candidates from the UN’s Asia-Pacific regional group: Bahrain’s ambassador to the country, Youssef Abdul Karim Bukiri, and his Uzbek counterpart, Lugbek Lapsov, who received 14 and four votes, respectively.
Fiji’s victory was hailed by rights groups, who expressed concern over the record of two other countries. “The comprehensive defeat of Bahrain and Uzbekistan shows that there should be no space between the president and vice presidents of the Council for the Defense of Human Rights to impose sanctions, criminal sanctions and sanctions on human rights defenders.” Phil Lynch, head of the International Rights Service, told AFP.
The presidency of the council rotates between regions each year and the candidate usually agrees by consensus in each regional group.