UN chooses five new non-permanent Security Council members | News | DW | 17.10.2013
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UN chooses five new non-permanent Security Council members

The United Nations has chosen five new non-permanent members of the Security Council, including Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Chad. The humanitarian records of those new members drew criticism from human rights advocates.

The UN's General Assembly on Thursday elected five new countries to non-permanent seats on the Security Council, with all of the candidates running unopposed.

Chad and Nigeria are to replace Morocco and Togo as African representatives on the body. Meanwhile, Lithuania takes the East European seat, which is currently held by Azerbaijan. Saudi Arabia takes over from Pakistan as a representative for the Asia-Pacific region, while Chile was elected from the Latin American region to replace Guatemala.

Chad, Nigeria and Lithuania have never before held a place on the 15-member council, while Nigeria and Chile have each been members four times in the past.

Each country must obtain support of two-thirds of all members present to gain a place. With balloting held in secret, candidates lobby intensely to ensure they garner the required amount, even where the vote is uncontested.

There were initially two candidates for a West African seat, but Gambia dropped out in favor of Nigeria last week.

Despite the lack of a contest, there was disapproval from human rights proponents for some of the choices.

'World's foremost diplomatic table'

Chad, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia came in for criticism from the group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"The prestige of a seat at the world's foremost diplomatic table should prompt the new members to get their house in order," said HRW's UN director Philippe Bolopion.

Chad was singled out for its use of child soldiers, having featured on a UN "list of shame" for the practice. Saudi Arabia was urged to "grant women their full rights," such as the right to drive and to travel without the permission of a male relative. There was also criticism for Riyadh over its perceived shielding of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nigeria's government was urged to "end chronic abuse by security forces and better protect civilians in the north" from attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Hillel Neuer, the executive director of Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, said Chad should not have oversight of UN peacekeeping while it employed child soldiers.

Seats in the Security Council are allocated by region, with regional groups nominating candidates.

Five countries have permanent seats on the Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. The other 10 seats are awarded for periods of two years by the General Assembly. A vote is held each year for five of the seats.

rc/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)