US attacks UN Human Rights Council

America joins Israeli criticism of the panel, but fails to derail approval of its draft resolution.

Khalilzad 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Khalilzad 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The United States on Friday renewed criticism of the UN Human Rights Council, arguing it had shown a misplaced focus on Israel while giving a free pass to countries with poor human rights records. The US opposition failed to sway the vast majority of the UN General Assembly's human rights committee, which, as expected, approved the draft resolution on the body's working rules 145-7 through a rare vote forced by Israel. The committee generally approves measures by consensus. The US listed several factors motivating its opposition to the draft, first among them was the "council's relentless focus during the year on a single country - Israel," said US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. "At the same time, the council failed during the year to address serious human rights violations taking place in other countries such as Zimbabwe, DPRK (North Korea), Iran, Belarus and Cuba," he said. France supported the draft, as did Britain and China. The new Human Rights Council replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission last year. The US has repeatedly expressed its reservations about the 47-nation council, which was created by the General Assembly to assume the responsibilities of the commission. The Human Rights Commission had been criticized for being overly politicized and ineffective. But from the outset, the US objected to its replacement because it allows countries with shoddy human rights records to serve. Joining Israel and the United States in opposing the draft were five other countries, including Australia, Canada and the Pacific island nation of Palau. Citing only one positive accomplishment - the condemnation of Myanmar's violent crackdown on protesters in September - Khalilzad said the past year was "very bad" for the council and that it "had failed to fulfill our hopes." Among the provisions in the draft, which must still be submitted to UN budget committees before moving to the full 192-member states of the General Assembly, is a periodic human rights review for all countries. Khalilzad said the US hopes the review process "will subject the world's worst human rights violators to real scrutiny and perhaps even persuade them to mend their ways." "We hope that the Human Rights Council will stand in solidarity with victims of human rights violations around the world, not with the perpetrators," he said. The vote came days after Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, issued a scathing rebuke of the council, saying last week that some in the United Nations believed that "they were giving birth to a new baby." Instead, "they have in fact given birth to a horrendous monster," said Gillerman. He said he realized the resolution would pass, but held out hope that "at least another few countries - brave and moral countries - will stand by us."