UN Human Rights Council (File Image)
The 2021 presidency of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is expected to be decided by a vote, as the Fijian candidate, Nazhat Shameem Khan, has met with opposition from Russia and China, and India is poised to play a key role.
Russia and China have backed Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, the Ambassador of Bahrain who was declared as a candidate last month after being supported by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), Hindustan Times reported on January 13.
The 47-member Human Rights Council has to elect a president from Asia-Pacific region this year. A total of 13-member states represent the grouping, with China, Russia and India being the major countries.
With Russia and China opposing the Fijian candidate, India is poised to play a key role in the election of the next UNHRC chief.
However, it's going to be a tough choice for India as the country shares cordial ties with both Fiji and Bahrain. While the latter is home to nearly 350,000 expats, the one-third population of Fiji is comprised by individuals of Indian-origin.
Before the entry of Bahraini candidate in the fray, former Fiji judge Khan was expected to takeover the UNHRC presidency from outgoing Austrian lawyer Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger.
Tichy-Fisslberger's tenure had expired on December 31, but was continued for an interim period as the Fijian candidate was met with opposition.
Bucheeri, the nominee of Bahrain, has drawn flak from a number of rights' groups who had written to the UNHRC last month to mark their apprehensions.
"We contend that Bahrain's ongoing suppression of fundamental civil liberties, systematic violations of human rights, routine use of reprisals against activists, journalists, and human rights defenders and the government's steadfast refusal to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms renders it an unsuitable candidate for President of the HRC," the letter signed by over 20 NGOs had claimed.
"For these reasons, we strongly recommend that states of the Asian Pacific Group vote against Bahrain's bid for the Presidency," they further added.