China, Saudi Arabia and Russia are poised to join the United Nations Human Rights Council, raising alarm among rights groups who say the countries are among the world's "worst rights violators".
The UN General Assembly was expected to hold elections yesterday for 15 seats in the 47-nation council, with the new members serving for three years from January 2021.
"Electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade," Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent human rights group based in Geneva, said in a statement.
"Serial rights abusers should not be rewarded with seats on the Human Rights Council," said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Saudi Arabia was previously on the council until 2019. China, which is under fire over its treatment of ethnic Uighurs in the far western region of Xinjiang and its imposition of a National Security Law in Hong Kong, could also return as a member.
HRW said both countries had a history of using their seats in the council "to prevent scrutiny of their abuses and those by their allies."
Only last month, dozens of nations condemned Saudi Arabia before the council over serious rights violations and demanded accountability for the murder Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post newspaper columnist who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Other countries vying for the four seats available to the Asia Pacific region are Nepal, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, while Russia and Ukraine are competing for one of the two Eastern European seats.
Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess champion and human rights defender, described the three countries' probable election as a "joke".