US calls UN Human Rights Council 'anti-Israel'

State Department says UNHRC has "singular," anti-Israel focus.

United Nations AP 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
United Nations AP 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
For the second year in a row, the United States has decided not to seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, the State Department said Tuesday, accusing the panel of an anti-Israeli bias. Spokesman Sean McCormack said the Council has had a "singular focus" on Israel, while countries such as Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea have been spared scrutiny. He said that although the United States will have only an observer role, it will continue to shine a spotlight on human rights issues. The 47-member commission is made up largely of governments who have been elected. Among member countries which lack elements of a free and fair democratic system are Gabon, China, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Russia. The most senior Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, supported the administration decision. "Rather than standing as a strong defender of fundamental human rights, the Human Rights Council has faltered as a weak voice subject to gross political manipulation," she said. The council is the successor to the UN Human Rights Commission, which was dismantled last year as part of a reform program. But the United States felt the reform did not go far enough, and declined to compete for a seat when the council was formed in 2006. The council will hold its annual meeting in Geneva starting next week and will take up a report commissioned by the panel that compares Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to apartheid in South Africa. John Dugard, an independent investigator from South Africa, said in the report that Israel's laws and practices in the Palestinian territories "certainly resemble aspects of apartheid." Israel's ambassador in Geneva, Yitzhak Levanon, said Dugard's report was one-sided. "Any conclusions he may draw are therefore fundamentally flawed and purposely biased," he said.