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US doubts OHCHR human rights agenda

March 1, 2017

A US official has slammed the UN Human Rights Council's criticism of Israel, saying it tarnishes its credibility. The council has issued more than 60 resolutions condemning the Middle East nation's human rights record.

34th UN Human Rights Council session
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot/X. Jinquan

A senior US official said on Wednesday President Donald Trump's administration is reviewing its engagement with the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR), citing an "obsession with Israel."

"As we consider our future engagements, my government will be considering the council's actions with an eye toward reform to more fully achieve the council's mission to protect and promote human rights," Erin Barclay, US deputy assistant secretary of state, told the human rights body.

Barclay said the Geneva forum has unfairly targeted Israel for alleged violations of human rights, questioning whether it was a sensible priority given abuses perpetrated by regimes in Syria, North Korea and Iran.

"The obsession with Israel … is the largest threat to this council's credibility," Barclay said. "When it comes to human rights, no country should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any democratic country be regularly subjected to unfair, unbalanced and unfounded bias."

Since its creation in 2006, the council has issued more than 60 resolutions condemning Israel for human rights abuses. The UN body has been a contentious subject for Republicans and Democrats, with Washington declining a seat on the council when it was formed.

'Constructive partner'?

The US joined the council in 2009 following former President Barack Obama's electoral victory the year before. Under Obama's administration, Washington played a key role in coordinating responses from Western nations to human rights abusers.

The council's spokesman Rolando Gomez on Tuesday said any country interested in revoking their membership from the UN human rights body could only do so through the General Assembly, without mentioning the US.

However, he lauded Washington's past efforts in promoting human rights across the globe with its Western allies.

"The US has been a very active and constructive partner in the council for many years, spearheading a number of important initiatives, such as DPRK (North Korea), Iran, Syria, LGBT rights … and many issues that are certainly on the agenda today," he said.

ls/jm (AP, Reuters)

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