The United States returns to the Human Rights Council after the Trump era

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday elected the United States to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC), more than three years after the Trump administration resigned from the 47-member body due to of his chronic prejudices against Israel and a lack of reform.
The United States, unopposed, won 168 votes by secret ballot of the 193 members of the General Assembly. He begins a three-year term on January 1, pitting Washington against Beijing and Moscow, which began their terms this year. US President Joe Biden took office in January, promising that human rights would be at the center of his foreign policy, and his administration has not shied away from criticizing China over Hong Kong, Xinjiang and China. Taiwan, while calling on Russia.

“The United States should not lend legitimacy to an organization that includes perpetrators of human rights violations like China, Venezuela and Cuba,” said Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), a leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “In addition, the council continues to disproportionately spend the majority of its time and attention persecuting our ally Israel. The Biden administration will be happy to have joined this flawed body. However, he will have done so without securing the necessary reforms, while failing to support human rights around the world. “

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Washington would initially focus on “what we can accomplish in situations of great need, such as Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen. Our objectives are clear: to support human rights defenders and denounce human rights violations and abuses.

Israel is set to lose three main supporters in January – Austria, the Czech Republic and Denmark – but it wins Lithuania and the United States.

The European headquarters of the United Nations is pictured in Geneva, Switzerland on September 2, 2021 (Credit: REUTERS / DENIS BALIBOUSE)

Israel is the only country permanently on the UNHRC’s agenda, and the only country to be targeted by a standing commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes, established earlier this year.
Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, said that after Thursday’s election, only 31.9% of UNHRC members are free democracies.

“The elections were designed to eliminate the worst human rights abusers in the world,” Neuer said. “But oppressive regimes like China, Cuba, Libya, Russia and Eritrea consistently win elections and the seal of international legitimacy.”

Candidates for the Human Rights Council are elected in geographic groups to ensure equal representation. There were no competitive races Thursday to elect 13 new members and re-elect five members. Members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.

The General Assembly also elected Kazakhstan, Gambia, Benin, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Paraguay, Honduras, Luxembourg, Finland, Montenegro and Lithuania, while re-electing on Thursday the Cameroon, Eritrea, Somalia, India and Argentina. The United States received the second lowest number of votes, edging only Eritrea, which received 144 votes.


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