China, Russia return to UN Rights Council

China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba won seats on the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, despite fierce criticism of their records from rights campaigners.

The UN General Assembly elected 14 seats on the 47-member council which is taking on increased diplomatic importance because of the Syria war and other conflicts.

The council, which will start work on January 1, will be one of the most polarized since it was created.

France and Britain returned to the Geneva-based body.

South Africa, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Namibia, Maldives, Macedonia and Mexico also secured seats.

"With the return of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, human rights defenders will have their work cut out for them at the Human Rights Council next year," said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

"States truly committed to advancing human rights will need to redouble their efforts on key issues, such as accountability in Sri Lanka, grave abuses in Central African Republic and the ongoing crisis in Syria," she added.

tw/jm