South Africa has been re-elected as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, an indication of the world’s continued confidence in the country’s commitment to human rights, says the country’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Jerry Matjila.

South Africa was re-elected Friday for a successive three-year team to the Geneva-based human rights body with the elections conducted through voting on separate slates for different regional groups.

Running on a clean slate, four African countries — South Africa, Rwanda, Tunisia and Egypt. In voting on the Eastern European slate, Russia lost out after receiving the fewest number of votes behind Croatia and Hungary.

Matjila said: “This is an indication that the world has confidence in South Africa’s commitment to human right but this (victory) goes to our government, our Parliament, our civil society, media, NGOs, to all South Africans.

“It has proved that South Africans collectively, we are dedicated to human rights issues. I think we have been vindicated, with 178 countries(voting for South Africa) just after the question of the ICC (South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court). I think it’s very good news for us but it’s (due to) our commitment, our record.”

The Asia Pacific Group had a clean slate ensuring China, Iraq, Japan and Saudi Arabia’s election. Guatemala fell to Brazil and Cuba in voting on the Latin American Group while the United States and Britain were confirmed on their clean slate for the Western Group.

Russia will be the other headline from the vote results, falling short to Hungary and Croatia in the competitive Eastern European group. The UN Director for Human Rights Watch, Lou Charbonneau, had raised concerns particularly about the candidacy of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“Ten years after the creation of the HRC, which is the successor to the failed Human Rights Commission. we’ve seen some of the same problems crop up. One of the main ones is the fact that some of the worst human rights abusers in the world are running for election and they easily get in,” he said.

“There are mostly closed slates, there is not a competitive election, we see that three of the five regional groups in this election have closed slates ensuring that everyone get in. Two of the countries we’re most concerned about are Saudi Arabia and Russia. Both of them are involved in atrocity crimes, Saudi Arabia in Yemen with the coalition that it’s leading and Russia in Syria.”

Matjila believes countries with questionable human rights records benefit from a seat on the Council. “As part of the UN, even coming to the Human Rights Council is to help that country to assume certain obligations and it’s better if the country is inside the human rights council because of obligations,” he added.

“Secondly, it’s a view that nothing is permanent, society evolve, countries will learn and gradually they will begin to incorporate human rights, democracy in their own systems. It’s a learning thing to be in the UN Human Rights system.”

The term of the 14 newly elected members commences on Jan 1, 2017 through the end of 2019.