US defends UNHRC; Israeli condemnation mounts

State Department says Council has acted against human rights abuses around the world but slams its record on Israel.

March 24, 2012 09:42
2 minute read.
UNHRC headquarters in Geneva

UNHRC headquarters 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United States defended the record of the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, saying that the international organization had taken "robust action" against human rights abuses.

The US State Department statement came amid increased controversy over the Council after it established a fact-finding mission to probe the effects of settlements on Palestinian human rights. The move drew condemnation from Israeli political authorities, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday announcing that he was considering withdrawing the Israeli ambassador to the UNHRC and severing ties with the body.

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In a statement released by US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, the US said that the UNHRC had "helped spur action on a series of important human rights situations around the world, in part due to vigorous US engagement." The statement praised UNHRC action in Syria, Sri Lanka, Iran, North Korea, Burma, Libya and Yemen.

Nuland added that the US condemns the UNHRC's biased approach on Israel, which she said "continues to unnecessarily politicize the Council's human rights agenda."

During a meeting Friday with President of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam, Foreign Minister Liberman said that he will try to persuade countries such as the United States to quit the council.

Liberman added that he will convene a meeting in the foreign ministry to discuss the possibility that Israel will not cooperate with the council in its investigation.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted to the UNHRC's decision to establish the fact-finding mission on Thursday, saying the council is “hypocritical” and should be “ashamed of itself.”

It is the first such fact-finding mission by the council. The council, which met in Geneva, also approved four other resolutions against Israel, including one opposing its actions on the Golan Heights.

By a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions, the council decided to dispatch the fact-finding mission to “investigate the implications” of the settlements on “the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.”

Only the US called the resolution biased and voted against it.

“Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran,” Netanyahu said.

Another proof of its distance from reality, Netanyahu added, was the fact that this week it facilitated the lecture of an activist from Hamas at an NGO side event in its building.

Hamas is an organization whose ideology is based on “the murder of innocents,” he said.

Herb Keinon, Tovah Lazaroff in Brussels and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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