The Human Rights Council and the role of authoritarian countries

hrc dronesLast week the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution that requires states

to ensure transparency in their records on the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones and to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of a violation to international law caused by their use.

Ryan Goodman discusses the implications of this vote for international law. My view is that it has no implications. The views of the Human Rights Council are rarely taken seriously by governments. To see why, click on the graph pasted above. It reflects a pattern in votes of this type: that the apparently “progressive” resolution is in fact supported by (mainly) authoritarian countries like China and Saudi Arabia, while opposed by liberal democracies. Freedom House ranks countries based on their political rights from 1 (best) to 7 (worst). The average score of the resolution’s backers (the blue bars in the graph) is 4.1, while the resolution’s opponents (red) average 1.5, and the abstainers (green) average 2.7.

Anyone who thinks that resolutions like this one reflect a conscientious effort to interpret international human rights law doesn’t understand how the Human Rights Council operates. I will provide another example tomorrow.