The vacant seat on the UN Human Rights Council left by the United States will be filled by a member from the same regional group, said the spokesman of Miroslav Lajcak, president of the UN General Assembly, on Wednesday.
The General Assembly resolution that established the Human Rights Council in 2006 does not contain any reference to possible withdrawals by members of the council, said Brenden Varma, the spokesman.
But the resolution provides for geographic distribution of the 47 members of the council, he said. Therefore, the vacancy left by the United States will have to be filled through election in the General Assembly of a candidate from the Western European and others group, he said.
As the United States is the first member to withdraw from the Human Rights Council, there is no past practice in terms of procedures for withdrawal or for replacement, said Varma. "Now we are looking into possible next steps."
But as the first step, he said, the General Assembly is still waiting for the official notification of the United States on its withdrawal.
On reports of Russia putting itself forward for candidature, Varma said the country does not qualify as it is not from the Western European and others regional group.
Notification of candidature would normally go to the UN Secretariat, before the General Assembly president can decide on an election. There is no timeframe for such an election, said Varma.
It remains unclear where a replacement will be determined as the current session of the General Assembly is wrapping up its business.
The members of the UN Human Rights Council are elected each year in the General Assembly for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis. The United States was in the middle of its 2016-2019 term when it announced its withdrawal on Tuesday.
Upon the U.S. announcement, Lajcak regretted the U.S. withdrawal.
"The president of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajcak, regrets the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Human Rights Council. Created by the General Assembly in 2006, the Human Rights Council is the main body of the United Nations entrusted with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Through its various mechanisms, procedures and resolutions, it gives a voice to people everywhere, including the most vulnerable," Varma said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also regretted the U.S. withdrawal on Tuesday. "The secretary-general would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council. The UN's Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide," said Stephane Dujarric, Guterres' spokesman, in a note to correspondents.