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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X


JORDAAN, Eduard. Worthy of membership? Rwanda and South Africa on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2021, vol.21, n.2, pp.907-937. ISSN 1996-2096.

The election of human rights-abusing states to the human rights bodies of the United Nations has long been a source of dissatisfaction. There have been repeated calls that such states should not be members of the UN Human Rights Council. This article compares the HRC records of Rwanda, an authoritarian state, with that of South Africa, a liberal democracy. The focus falls on 12 country-specific situations and nine civil and political rights issues that appeared before the HRC from 2017 to 2019. It is demonstrated that Rwanda has been a much stronger defender of international human rights than South Africa. This finding contradicts various empirical and theoretical studies that posit a positive relationship between domestic democracy and respect for human rights, on the one hand, and international support for human rights, on the other. This finding further suggests that demands that the HRC should only have members with respectable domestic human rights records should be tempered.

Keywords : African foreign policy; Rwanda; South Africa; United Nations Human Rights Council.

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