Back in 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the UN Human Rights Council, citing its disproportionate focus on Israel—the country the UN loves to hate, as well as the disturbing number of bloodthirsty dictatorships among its members (including Pakistan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Venezuela, and Russia) and the fact that the agency would not adopt any of the reforms demanded by the US.
The US has already boycotted the UNHRC under the GW. Bush administration, because of those repressive member states that had the audacity to lecture the US and Israel on human rights. But then, when President Obama came to power, he reversed the Bush White House position and “reengaged” in the UNHRC.
On Monday, according to an Associated Press report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a senior US diplomat in Geneva are planning to announce a return to the UNHRC, as an observer, for now, eventually asking to be elected as a full member.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) that had been criticized for—you guessed it—letting countries with appalling records on human rights to become members. But the pattern of countries with burgeoning gulags condemning the only state in the Middle East without concentration camps and mass executions continues.
Last year, the UNHRC released a blacklist of more than 100 companies that it accuses of raising “particular human rights concerns” due to their location in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
In 2019, Israel rejected the findings of a one-sided investigation by the so-called “Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” set up by the UNHRC. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the findings by saying “the council is setting new records for hypocrisy and mendacity, out of an obsessive hatred of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. It is Hamas which fires missiles at Israeli citizens, throws explosive devices and carries out terrorist activity during the violent demonstrations along the fence.”
Also in 2019, in one day, the UNHRC adopted five anti-Israel resolutions. It condemned Israel for “abuses” on the Golan Heights (next door to Syria, which literally gasses its citizens from the air); alleged Israeli violations in the “Palestinian” territories – a regular feature on the agency’s menu; and Israel’s building settlements in Judea and Samaria. There was a fourth resolution, calling for the right of “Palestinian” self-determination; and a resolution condemning Israel for defending itself against violent protests on its southern border with Gaza.
According to the human rights NGO UN Watch, “every year, the General Assembly adopts some 20 resolutions against Israel and only 5 or 6 against the rest of the world combined, with one each on Iran, Syria and North Korea. The General Assembly adopts zero resolutions on systematic abusers like Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia.”
And now the US, too, can join in. The AP cited a senior US official who said the Biden administration still wants the UNHRC to reform itself but believes that the best way to promote reform is to “engage with it in a principled fashion.” Yes, they really said it. The same official told the AP that the UNHRC can be “an important forum for those fighting tyranny and injustice around the world” and the US intends to “ensure it can live up to that potential.”
The UNHRC consists of 47 members, elected yearly by the General Assembly for staggered three-year terms. Members are selected using the United Nations’ regional grouping system, which goes:
- 13 for the African Group
- 13 for the Asia-Pacific Group
- 6 for the Eastern European Group
- 8 for the Latin American and Caribbean Group
- 7 for the Western European and Others Group
And, just so you’ll know, the latest member countries, serving three-year staggered terms in 2019 to 2023 include Bangladesh, Somalia, Eritrea, Libya, Indonesia, Venezuela, Pakistan, China, and Russia. Fun.