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US threatens to withdraw from UN human rights body for criticising Israel

March 1, 2017 at 4:52 pm

34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland on 2 February 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın – Anadolu Agency]

The Trump administration is apparently considering quitting the UN Human Rights Council because of its critical stance towards Israel.

US officials are thought to be weighing their membership of the UN human rights body with an eye to reform and balance its agenda and end what they believe is the forum’s “obsession with Israel”.

Reuters reported comments by the US’ deputy assistant secretary of state, Erin Barclay, telling members of the UN Human Rights Council: “In order for this Council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions.”

“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,” said Barclay.

Read: US needs to end Israel’s 50-year-long occupation, says Sanders

The Council’s next session is scheduled for Monday, and the administration is not expected to pull out of the council before that.

The Human Rights Council was set up in 2006 to replace the UN Human Rights Commission that came under fire after countries with poor human rights records managed to obtain membership.

Former US President George W. Bush declined to join the newly-established council, thinking that it would lack credibility and would still allow human rights violators to join its ranks.

However, in 2009, Barack Obama’s administration changed this decision and joined the group, believing it would be easier to influence the council from the inside.

The UN director at Human Rights Watch HRW, Lou Charbonneau, described the potential withdrawal as “a misguided and short-sighted” step while noting the council’s “ground-breaking measures, often with strong US support,” including appointing investigating commissions that detected serious human rights violations in North Korea and Syria.