2021-10-14 22:16:26 US elected to UN Human Rights Council that Trump quit | Human Rights News

US elected to UN Human Rights Council that Trump quit | Human Rights News

The US has been re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time since the Trump administration left the international body in 2018, citing “chronic bias” against Israel.

The Department of State announced on Tuesday that Washington has been elected to the council’s next term, which begins in 2022.

“We will work hard to ensure that the Council upholds its highest aspirations and better supports those fighting injustice and tyranny around the world,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement.

The Biden administration announced its intention to rejoin the Human Rights Council earlier this year, as part of a stated effort to reverse some of former President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies, which saw the US withdraw from several international organizations.

The Human Rights Council has been chastised by members of both parties in the US Congress for its reports and statements on Israeli abuses of Palestinians.

However, the Biden administration has argued that Washington would better serve its interests by participating in the internal debate at UN agencies.

“The Council provides a forum for open discussions about how we and our partners can improve,” Blinken said in a statement on Thursday. “At the same time, it has serious flaws, such as disproportionate focus on Israel and membership in several states with egregious human rights records.”

Later in the day, State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated Blinken’s message, saying the US would “vigorously oppose” the council’s focus on Israel. He did, however, defend his decision to rejoin the UN body.

“If we are to help shape institutions – to help them deliver on their highest aspirations, which is what we intend to do with the Human Rights Council, to help them promote the values and interests that the United States and our partners share,” Price said.

The UN General Assembly elects 47 member states from five geographic regions to three-year terms on the Human Rights Council.

The United Nations established the Geneva-based body in 2006 with the goal of promoting and protecting human rights.

The Trump administration left the council three years ago, describing it as a “hypocritical and self-serving organization” by then-UN envoy Nikki Haley.

The previous administration also left the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, among other international organizations and treaties.

Blinken framed the return to the Human Rights Council on Thursday in the context of President Joe Biden’s efforts to re-establish Washington’s global engagements.

“Since the beginning of this Administration, President Biden has made it clear that our foreign policy would be based on America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms, respecting the rule of law, and treating everyone with dignity,” Blinken said.

Some human rights activists, however, have criticized the administration, claiming that it has not done enough to hold US allies accountable for human rights violations.

On Thursday, there were no competitive races to elect 13 new members and re-elect five members of the Human Rights Council.

On Thursday, the General Assembly elected Kazakhstan, Gambia, Benin, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Paraguay, Honduras, Luxembourg, Finland, Montenegro, and Lithuania, as well as re-elected Cameroon, Eritrea, Somalia, India, and Argentina.

Human Rights Watch criticized the lack of competition in the vote earlier this week.

“The lack of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes the word ‘election’ meaningless,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

“Electing serious rights violators like Cameroon, Eritrea, and the United Arab Emirates sends a terrible signal that UN member states aren’t serious about the council’s fundamental mission of protecting human rights.”

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US elected to UN Human Rights Council that Trump quit | Human Rights News