US to rejoin anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council, even as it admits it’s ‘flawed’

Biden administration reversing pullout of heavily biased UN body by President Trump, but rejoining the UNHRC only as an “observer.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday that the U.S. was reversing a Trump administration decision and would rejoin the “flawed” UN Human Rights Council that is known for its anti-Israel bias.

“We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said in a statement released by the State Department.

“However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”

“To address the Council’s deficiencies and ensure it lives up to its mandate, the United States must be at the table using the full weight of our diplomatic leadership,” Blinked said, adding that for now the U.S. will only “engage with the Council as an observer.”

“We strongly believe that when the United States engages constructively with the Council, in concert with our allies and friends, positive change is within reach,” Blinken added, but did not specify any changes the U.S. was seeking from the council that is known to be dominated by some of the world’s worst offenders of human rights.

Two years ago the Trump administration said it was fed up with the inherent bias of the UNHRC and pulled out so it did not have to continue funding the dysfunctional body. Then U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called the council the UN’s “greatest failure.”

“For too long,” Haley said, “the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.” Haley specifically pointed out that the UNHRC has a permanent agenda item for only one country, Israel, which it regularly subjects to a disproportionate number of condemnations.

The independent human rights group UN Watch noted that in the period between 2006-2021 the UNHRC issued 90 condemnations of Israel. The next closest country was Syria with 35, while some of the countries with reputations for flagrant violations of human rights received none at all.

“The cost of the U.S. rejoining is that it lends legitimacy to a council where tyrannies and other non-democracies now comprise 60% of the membership, including serial abusers of human rights like China, Russia, Cuba, and Pakistan, all of whom have escaped any censure in the form of a council resolution, inquiry or urgent session,” UN Watch director Hillel Neuer told World Israel News in an e-mail.

“In exchange, the U.S. at a minimum must demand serious reform, removing despots from the council such as Venezuela’s Maduro regime, holding dictators to account for their oppression, and ending the notorious agenda item that targets Israel alone in each session,” Neuer added, saying that the Biden administration’s engagement with the council “has to be principled.”

“The Obama Administration made the mistake of turning into a cheerleader for the council, praising sessions that included the adoption of numerous anti-Western resolutions sponsored by the Cuban regime. Instead, the Biden Administration should be candid in calling out the council’s abuses, and holding their feet to the fire,” Neuer said.

“Lots of folk have talked of reforming the HRC. Will be interesting to see if it happens,” commented BBC Diplomatic Correspondent James Landale.