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The US officially rejoins the controversial UN Human Rights Council



The United States was elected on Thursday in an undisputed vote of member countries by the United Nations General Assembly. President Joe Biden had said he would return the U.S. to the Geneva-based rights organization. Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates also joined the Human Rights Council on Thursday despite concerns about their own national records expressed by human rights organizations.

The United States got 168 votes, a slight drop from what other countries received for three-year terms.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement celebrating the U.S. re-entry into the council that U.S. initial efforts on the council will focus on Afghanistan, Myanmar, China , Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen. He said the goals of the United States will be to “defend human rights defenders and protest against human rights violations and abuses.”

“In broader terms, we will promote respect for fundamental freedoms and women’s rights and oppose religious intolerance, racial and ethnic injustices, and violence and discrimination against members of minority groups, including LGBTQI + people. people with disabilities, “he said. foreigner, to seek membership “.

In particular, Thomas-Greenfield said the United States “will oppose the Council’s disproportionate attention to Israel, which includes the only permanent point of the Council’s one-country program.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused the council of bias against Israel and of failing to hold human rights abusers accountable when the US left the panel in 2018.

“For too long,” Haley said in 2018, “the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abuses and an abyss of political bias.”

“Human rights abusers continue to serve and are elected to serve on the council,” he said. “The most inhumane regimes in the world continue to escape their control and the council continues to politicize the scapegoat of countries with a positive human rights record in an attempt to distract themselves from abusers in their ranks.”

Biden Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States would re-engage with the council in February.

There are 47 member states on the council, and current members include countries that have been accused of serious human rights abuses such as China, Russia and Venezuela.

In a statement in February, announcing the new U.S. commitment to the council, Blinken said the administration recognized “that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, needing to reform its agenda, members and approach.” including its disproportionate focus on Israel. “

“However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to foster significant change, but rather created a gap in American leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage,” he said. .

The council has long been criticized for including countries with a history of lacking protection of human rights in their own territory. Ahead of Thursday’s vote at the UN, the NGO Human Rights Watch warned that non-competitive elections “virtually guarantee seats for candidate countries with abysmal rights registers,” urging UN member states to abstain from voting Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates specifically among others.

And the American Civil Liberties Union urged the Biden administration to prioritize human rights in domestic politics after the U.S. re-election to the council.

“President Biden during his presidential campaign pledged to re-establish relations with international partners and focus human rights at home and abroad under his administration and lead by the power of example,” the statement said. of the ACLU. “However, despite council elections, the U.S. human rights record remains very problematic, especially because the country has not yet ratified or fully implemented key international human rights treaties and has not implemented the recommendations of regional human rights and global human rights organizations “.

The re-election of the U.S. to the Human Rights Council is the latest effort to restore the U.S. position on the world stage by participating in multilateral organizations and treaties rejected by the Trump administration. Biden reversed the U.S. exit from the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreements.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.



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