Morocco will preside over the UN Human Rights Council this year after a controversial vote

The UN Human Rights Council today elected the Moroccan ambassador Omar Zniber as president of this assembly by 2024despite the opposition of a group of countries, led by South Africa, which rejected this designation on the grounds that Morocco violates human rights in Western Sahara.

The vote, held secretly, concluded with thirty votes in favor of the Moroccan candidate and 17 for the South African candidate, Mxolisi Nkosi. in an election that is generally decided by consensus.

Is about the second vote in the organization’s 17-year history of the United Nations to appoint its annual president, who this year was to belong to the African group, after in 2023 the council of 47 countries will be chaired by the Czech ambassador Václav Bálek.

Moroccowho announced last year his intention to chair the Human Rights Council during the annual African mandate, He sought the support of the countries of the continent so that his candidacy would emerge..

The reasons for South Africa’s opposition

However, it failed to influence South Africa, a country that has frequently supported the proposal for a referendum on self-determination of the Sahrawi people, a solution to this historical conflict also supported by the UN and other countries such as Algeria, the main ally of the Polisario Front.

Thus, the South African ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Nkosi, was presented as a candidate after the country criticized Morocco’s candidacy for being a country “contradictory” to the humanitarian principles of the United Nations.

Unrest in the Polisario Front

The Moroccan ambassador assured after being elected that he will assume his duties with the “greatest flexibility and availability possible” and will organize the Council’s programs, meetings and exchanges in a “rational and effective” manner.

The Moroccan candidacy generated discomfort in the Polisario Front, a movement that fights for Sahrawi independence in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony occupied by Rabat since 1975.

Weeks ago, Sahrawi associations started a campaign against Morocco’s candidacyhighlighting that Morocco’s status as a “military occupying force in an African country and its failure to ratify the African Charter on Human Rights disqualify it from presiding over the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of Africa.”

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