US welcomes reelection to Human Rights Council

Hillary Clinton pledges US support to combat panel's anti-Israel activity; UN ambassador says HRC delivered "real results."

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER,
November 13, 2012 01:59
2 minute read.
Clinton delivers the keynote address

Clinton (R370). (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BALTIMORE/BERLIN – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed America’s reelection to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday and pledged that the country would continue to combat the panel’s anti-Israel activity.

“Much hard work remains to be done,” Clinton said in a statement, “especially ending the council’s disproportionate and biased focus on Israel.”

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The US has come under criticism from some in the Jewish community for participating in a group that routinely censures Israel while ignoring many of the most pressing human rights problems in the world, some being committed by countries with representatives on the council.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington’s reelection, saying that the Human Rights Council “has delivered real results” since the US first joined it in 2010 after running for a seat on it a year before. She cited council action on Syria as a positive example of its work.

However, she also criticized the council’s “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel.” Advocates of America’s participation, however, say the situation would be worse without a US presence, and that the US has been behind important initiatives challenging Iran’s human rights record and other initiatives.

Clinton noted that the US faced a difficult fight in a “highly competitive race” to retain its seat as a representative for Western nations on the council.

“We look forward to cooperating with other council members to continue to address human rights concerns and to ensure that the council fully realizes its promise,” she said.

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The vote gave the US another three year term on the 47-nation body.

The 193-nation UN General Assembly also elected 17 other countries for terms beginning in January. The US won the most votes of the regional group “Western Europe and Others,” followed by Germany and Ireland.

Writing on the UN Watch blog, Hillel Neuer, the head of the group, slammed Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for deferential conduct toward non-democracies and undercutting universal human rights.

“Because there are so many non-democracies and tyrannies among the 193 voting nations, candidates like Germany are effectively promising to give gross violators a free pass, perpetuate the council’s dysfunctional functioning as a toothless talk shop, and proclaim that Western democracies are no better than anyone else,” wrote Neuer.

AFP reported Westerwelle saying, “Developed countries do not have a monopoly on safeguarding human rights.”

Neuer shot back, “Translation: We in the West are as repressive as anyone else. So again, don’t worry: a vote for Germany on the council is a vote for shielding your regime.”

Westerwelle said, “We want to act as a bridge-builder. Cooperation, not confrontation, is the motto which guides our action.”

Neuer termed the phrase “bridgebuilder” within the UNHRC context as “an expression in Geneva that means appeasing dictators.”

Greece and Sweden failed to secure spots on the council in the “Western Europe and Others” category, the only regional group that had a competitive slate. Other regional groups had uncompetitive slates that assured victory for those in the running as there were enough seats for all candidates.

Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya and Sierra Leone were elected from Africa, and Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates from the Asia Group.

Estonia and Montenegro were elected from Eastern Europe, while Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela secured seats on behalf of the Latin America and Caribbean Group.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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