Czech Republic elected to UN Human Rights Council
The UN General Assembly on Friday elected the Czech Republic and 14 other states to serve on the UN Human Rights Council for a three year term, starting next month. The Czech Republic, which has served on the council previously, was elected in the first round, gaining support from 148 out of 191 countries present and winning one of the two seats designed for Eastern Europe. The Czech Foreign Ministry says it will give the country a better opportunity to help others on the road to freedom, critics say the Czech Republic itself could learn from the experience.
“The Czech Republic is acknowledged world-wide as a country that defends human rights indiscriminately. We criticize not only countries such as Burma and Cuba but also the heavyweights and that is widely appreciated. “
As a country which emerged from 40 years of totalitarian rule, the Czech Republic has shown a vested interest in the fate of others who are still struggling to achieve freedom. Czech dissidents who themselves got support from the West in the communist years feel they owe a big debt to others in a similar position. Vaclav Havel, the country’s first post communist president who himself spent years in prison, jump-started the process after 1989 and over the past twenty years the country has not faltered in supporting dissident movements and prisoners of conscience in authoritarian countries. However foreign policy expert Ondřej Horký from the Prague Institute for International Relations says the Czech Republic needs a much broader scope and often suffers from the same vice as others –keeping silent when it should speak out.
Where do you see potential for the Czech Republic, now that it has been elected to the council? Does this present a new opportunity?
“Yes, it definitely presents opportunities. And those opportunities are linked with some conceptual questions. So far the Czech Republic has focused on the first generation of human rights, freedom of expression, democracy, free elections and so on. But it has, so far, mostly ignored the second and third generations of human rights such as social rights, or rights that are very much connected to development like the right to food or the right to water which are very much in the focus of attention in the developing world. So I think that for the Czech Republic this is an opportunity to update and to broaden its understanding of human rights both in geographic terms but also in terms of the scope of human rights which is in reality much larger than the basic human rights we have sought to defend here in the Czech Republic during the communist era. “