UNHCR: Australia elected to UN Human Rights Council amid concerns of refugee rights abuses

UNHCR: Australia elected to UN Human Rights Council amid concerns of refugee rights abuses

UNHCR: Australia elected to UN Human Rights Council amid concerns of refugee rights abuses

Updated 17 October 2017, 7:10 AEDT

Australia is elected among 15 nations to join the United Nations Human Rights Council, the agency responsible for protecting human rights around the world.

Australia has been elected among 15 nations to join the United Nations Human Rights Council, officials in Geneva announced overnight.

Ending a two-year campaign to join the UN body, Australia will now serve a three-year term on the body responsible for protecting human rights around the world, starting on January 1, 2018.

Angola, Congo, Senegal, Slovakia, Ukraine, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Spain were also elected to the body overnight, while Nigeria and Qatar won second terms.

Ahead of its election to the UN body, Australia was criticised in a report over its human rights record in dealing with refugees and Aboriginal peoples.

"Australia owes those people obligations," said Hugh de Krester, the executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre.

But what was long seen as a three-legged race between Australia, France, and Spain for two available places, began to look like an assured election for Australia following the withdrawal of France earlier this year.

While Congo was elected uncontested to the 47-member Geneva-based council, it was criticised by Britain and the United States.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has called for the Human Rights Council votes to be competitive, said Congo's election harmed the credibility of the body.

"Countries that aggressively violate human rights at home should not be in a position to guard the human rights of others," Ms Haley said in a statement.

The United States is currently reviewing its membership in the council.

It is in the first year of a second term, but US President Donald Trump's administration has called for reforms to eliminate what it called its "chronic anti-Israel bias".