TAIPEI, 21 OCTOBER 2019 (AP) — Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has congratulated the Marshall Islands, one of Taiwan’s Pacific allies, on its selection as a new member state of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), while Venezuela also won a contested election for a seat, despite a campaign by more than 50 organizations and many nations opposed to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Taiwan and the Marshall Islands are democracies that defend human rights and the rule of law, the ministry said, adding that it hoped both countries continue to deepen collaboration and help Taiwan join UN events.

The Marshall Islands became one of the UNHRC’s 14 new members a day earlier.

“We welcome the Marshall Islands being elected as a UNHRC member and look forward to deepening and enhancing bilateral cooperation under the framework of the world body by helping Taiwan achieve meaningful participation at UN agencies and affiliated meetings,” the ministry said.

There was scattered applause in the General Assembly chamber when the UN president announced the results of the voting for two Latin American seats.

Brazil topped the ballot with 153 votes, followed by Venezuela with 105 votes and late entry Costa Rica with 96.

Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza called the vote “a victory” that followed “a fierce and brutal campaign by the United States.”

The administration of US President Donald Trump has recognised Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft called the placing of Maduro’s government on the council “an embarrassment to the United Nations and a tragedy for the people of Venezuela.”

“That one of the world’s worst human-rights abusers would be granted a seat on a body that is supposed to defend human rights is utterly appalling,” Craft said in a statement after the vote.

Human Rights Watch deputy director for global advocacy Philippe Bolopion called Venezuela’s election undeserved and “a slap in the face to the country’s countless victims who’ve been tortured and murdered by government forces, as well as the millions who have fled largely because of a humanitarian emergency the government unleashed.”

The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its re-election to the council marked an “important victory,” but criticized the selection of Venezuela.

Caracas’ election “shows that there is still a lot to do to create awareness in the international community about the catastrophic state of human rights in that country,” the Brazilian ministry said in a statement.

The 193-member world body elected 14 members to the 47-member council for three-year terms starting on Jan. 1. Under its rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.

In other contested races, Iraq lost out in the Asian group contest for four seats to the Marshall Islands, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, while Moldova lost in the Eastern Europe group race for two seats to Armenia and Poland.

The Africa region had four countries on the ballot — Benin, Libya, Mauritania and Sudan — for four seats, but a last-minute switch put Namibia on the ballot instead of Benin.

There was no competition for the two Western group seats, with Germany and the Netherlands elected.

The Geneva-based council can spotlight abuses and has special monitors watching certain countries and issues. It also periodically reviews human rights in every UN member country. (PACNEWS)