January 10, 2024

Morocco wins 2024 Human Rights Council presidency

Morocco wins 2024 Human Rights Council presidency

Morocco’s ambassador in Geneva was elected Wednesday to become the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2024 in a rare secret ballot among member states.

Omar Zniber won 30 votes, in a contest with South Africa’s ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi, who received 17 votes.

It was Africa’s turn to take the presidency of the UN’s top rights body but African nations could not agree on a single candidate from among its 13 members of the council — hence the rare secret ballot.

Following his victory, Zniber said the council’s work was “so important and so fundamental: the promotion of, respect toward and guarantee of human rights as universally recognised”, according to a statement from the Geneva-based body.

The foreign ministry in Rabat said Zniber’s successful candidacy came “despite the mobilisation of Algeria and South Africa to counter it”.

The North African kingdom said it “sees a strong signal sent by the international community in favour of its constructive approach, and its unifying leadership on key subjects such as inter-religious dialogue, tolerance and the fight against racial hatred, the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, migrants’ rights and the impact of new technologies”.

Rotating presidency 

Moroccan and international NGOs regularly denounce repression in the country targeting journalists, activists and human rights, in particular through the use of trials for common law crimes, particularly sexual offences, or through digital surveillance.

Morocco is notably accused of having used Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of journalists, activists and politicians, both Moroccan and foreign.

The Moroccan authorities have refuted such allegations “unjust and fantasist”.

NGOs also criticise alleged persistent discrimination against women and minorities.

The Human Rights Council was established in 2006 and is tasked with protecting and promoting human rights around the world, and addressing violations.

Its presidency rotates each year between the five regional groupings.

The first vote for president was in 2021 when the Asia-Pacific group, due to take the helm, failed to agree on a single candidate. Fiji won a three-way contest.

The president mainly oversees council meetings, but is also in charge of appointing the independent experts who investigate countries’ alleged rights abuses, and can determine how hard to crack down on cases of state intimidation against those who cooperate with the body.

A career diplomat, Zniber has been Morocco’s permanent representative at the UN in Geneva since 2018. He takes over from Czech ambassador Vaclav Balek.