"Votes count", the Human Rights Watch project

News.- Human Rights Watch has launched a new project: the “Votes Count” website to track each vote at the Human Rights Council. A tool devoted to enforce the Council's action on promoting human rights.


Countries often hide behind their regional groups or the political dynamics at the Human Rights Council, but each has a role in the council's successes and failures,” this insight was given by Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, John Fisher. Accordingly, Human Rights Watch, the well-known international NGO that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, has launched a new project: the “Votes Count” website. As stated by Mr. Fisher: “Each council member should be held accountable for its votes and for its leadership, which our Votes Count website makes easily accessible.”

The facts

The “Votes Count” initiative is designed to address and remedy the Council’s shortcomings. In particular, “it focuses on the Council's performance addressing ‘situations of violations of human rights’ throughout the world”. The voting patterns of countries that are or have been member states of the Human Rights Council since 2012 are reflected on the “Votes Count” website. As a result one “can follow a particular country’s performance at the Human Rights Council over time”. This allows the analysis of the role played by member states in the Council’s work concerning human rights violations. Further, the way countries voted “on resolutions addressing country-specific violations” can be appreciated. Hence, a picture of the performance of individual countries in key debates on human rights is provided by the website. However, the “Votes Count” project “does not address the Human Rights Council's performance on thematic issues or on its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism”.

The unique online resource created by Human Rights Watch is a tool which could ensure the Council’s success in combating human rights violations throughout the world.  Since the creation of the Human Rights Council in 2006, many member states have been “inconsistent in their votes, supporting action in some situations, but opposing steps to deal with even more dire circumstances in other countries”. This is probably why the Council “has successfully established investigation and monitoring mechanisms for grave violations in North Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Iran. But it has failed to take on abuses in other countries and situations, such as in Egypt, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay, and China”. It should however be mentioned that “while many council members from all regions are willing to confront governments responsible for human rights violations, a few refuse outright to support any council engagement with specific countries, despite the council's explicit mandate to do so.”

As Human Rights Watch pointed out “mixed or poor record in addressing situations concerning individual countries should make a commitment to fully carry out the council’s mandate and to base their positions on an assessment of the violations committed”. Conversely, member states with a strong voting record “should assume greater leadership roles in mobilizing action on situations that the council has not addressed.” This is because: “the Council’s most worrying trend is the small number of countries that are willing to show leadership in putting situations requiring council action on the table," Mr. Fisher said.

Resolutions on the human rights situations in North Korea, Iran, Burma and Libya are expected to be adopted by the Human Rights Council on March 26 and 27, 2015. Those who are interested in the Council’s work and human rights are free to access the “Votes Count” website, which is regularly updated with the latest resolutions and votes.


[1]- Human Rights Watch, Votes Count, The project, 2015, http://votescount.hrw.org/page/on%20the%20ranking%20system, (accessed on 25.02.2015)

[2]- Human Rights Watch, UN Rights Council: Voting Records Exposed, Analysis of Members That Protected Rights – or Didn’t, 2015, http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/24/un-rights-council-voting-records-exposed, (accessed on 25.02.2015)