Moroccan ambassador Omar Zniber emerges victorious in an unusual secret ballot held by the UN Human Rights Council

The ambassador of Morocco in Geneva, Omar Zniber, has secured the presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council for 2024 following an unusual secret ballot among member states.

Omar Zniber emerged victorious with 30 votes in a competition against South Africa’s ambassador, Mxolisi Nkosi, who received 17 votes.

The decision to resort to a secret ballot arose due to the inability of African nations to reach a consensus on a single candidate among the 13 members of the council.

Emphasizing the importance of his victory, Zniber highlighted the council’s critical role in promoting, respecting, and ensuring universally recognized human rights.

Despite opposition from Algeria and South Africa, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry in Rabat interpreted Zniber’s successful candidature as a strong signal from the international community, endorsing Morocco’s constructive approach and leadership on various key issues.

The rotating presidency of the Human Rights Council, tasked with protecting and promoting human rights globally, shifts annually among the five regional groupings. However, Morocco faces criticism from both Moroccan and international NGOs concerning alleged repression, including trials for common law crimes, digital surveillance, and the use of Pegasus spyware. The country has refuted such allegations as unjust and unfounded.

The presidency, responsible for overseeing council meetings and appointing independent experts to investigate rights abuses, plays a vital role. Zniber, a career diplomat who has served as Morocco’s permanent representative at the UN in Geneva since 2018, succeeds Czech ambassador Vaclav Balek.

Given Morocco’s position on the global stage, Zniber’s presidency will undoubtedly be closely scrutinized in addressing human rights challenges.

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