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AFP
January 16, 2021

UN rights body picks Fiji in first ever presidential vote

World

AFP
January 16, 2021

GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council elected Fiji’s ambassador as its 2021 president in an unprecedented secret ballot after a diplomatic stand-off blocked the usual consensus decision.

Fiji’s ambassador in Geneva, Nazhat Shameem Khan, who served as the council’s vice president in 2020 and is considered a rights champion, won with 29 out of 47 votes. She ran against two other candidates from the UN’s Asia-Pacific regional group of countries: Bahrain’s ambassador Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri and his counterpart from Uzbekistan, Ulugbek Lapasov, who received 14 and four votes respectively.

Fiji’s win was hailed by rights groups which had voiced concerns over the records of the two other countries. "The comprehensive defeat of Bahrain and Uzbekistan demonstrates that there should be no place among the council’s president or vice presidents for representatives of states that restrict, criminalise and commit reprisals" against rights defenders, Phil Lynch, head of the International Service for Human Rights, told AFP.

The council’s presidency rotates each year between the regions and the candidate is typically agreed upon by consensus within each regional group.