Concerns over new UN Human Rights Council members

Tibetan activists hold a demonstration on 22 October 2013 outside the UN in Geneva. Tibetan activists held rallies when China appeared before the council in October

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China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Vietnam have been elected to the UN's human rights watchdog, despite concerns about their rights records.

Campaign groups have condemned the election of the countries to the 47-seat Human Rights Council.

Human Rights Watch said some new members had denied access to UN monitors investigating alleged abuses.

The UN General Assembly elected a total of 14 new members to the Geneva-based council on Tuesday.

'Explaining to do'

China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Algeria and Cuba won seats unopposed, but human rights groups have complained that they are the countries that the body should be censuring.

New York-based Human Rights Watch singled out five countries - China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Algeria - which have denied access to UN human rights monitors keen to investigate alleged abuses.

"Countries that haven't allowed UN experts appointed by the council to visit have a lot of explaining to do," said Peggy Hicks, the group's global advocacy director.

And UN Watch, a frequent critic of UN practices, also accused these countries, along with Algeria, of systematically violating the rights of their citizens.

The newly members will be on the council for three years from 2014. The body aims to shine a spotlight on rights abuses by adopting resolutions.

UN Watch made a broader criticism of the Human Rights Council, accusing it of repeatedly criticising Israel while failing to adopt a resolution that has been critical of China, Russia or Saudi Arabia.

The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the UN's widely discredited Human Rights Commission.

But the council has faced similar criticism to the commission, with the election of countries with questionable track records in human rights.

South Sudan and Uruguay failed to win seats in the competitive elections for their regional grouping on Tuesday. The other regions had uncontested votes.

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