While conceding that the UN Human Rights Council should end “its excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel,” the State Department said it’s “pleased and proud” of the United States’ re-election to the body — and lauded its “robust response” since joining the panel under President Obama.
“Since joining the Council in 2009, the United States has ardently worked to help the Council realize its full potential,” the State Department said in a “fact sheet” released to reporters. “Our efforts to reform the Council from within have resulted in historic and concrete actions against human rights violators around the world.”
“The Council also has taken action to promote accountability for violations and expand human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide. Today’s vote will allow us to further strengthen the Council and build on what we have already accomplished at the Council by working together with our international partners.”
The department said the U.S. has “led the council” in re-instituting the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on Iran and another in Belarus, as well “adopting a resolution on Sri Lanka, which sent a strong signal that Sri Lanka still needs to address outstanding issues of reconciliation and accountability.”
“The Human Rights Council has been an active, vocal body in condemning the atrocities in Syria, holding four special sessions and establishing an independent International Commission of Inquiry, as well as a Special Rapporteur to follow up on the work of the Commission of Inquiry once its mandate expires,” the State Department said, not noting Syrians’ constant complaints about a lack of UN action against Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter that has killed more than 37,000. “The Council has adopted eight resolutions on Syria since 2011, all of which the United States co-sponsored, sharply and repeatedly criticizing and illuminating the conduct of the Syrian government.”
“While much work remains to be done at the Council, in particular ending its excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel, with U.S. leadership the Council has spoken up for those who are suffering major human rights violations and are living under the grip of the world’s cruelest regimes,” the “fact sheet” stated.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) lashed out at the council today, though, for being as committed to human rights as the sum of its members.
“The UN Human Rights Council once again illustrates the abyss and hypocrisy at the center of the UN’s human rights system by previously allowing Cuba and now Venezuela to have a seat on the Council,” she said.
“The Obama Administration’s policy of engagement has failed to reform the United Nations, including the Council, which continues to be dominated by oppressive regimes,” Ros-Lehtinen continued. “After yesterday’s election, Venezuela, led by the oppressive Hugo Chavez regime, is joining the Council along with other human rights abusers. The fact that Chavez’s tyrannical regime received more votes for the Council than the United States is a cause for considerable alarm.”
“Continuing U.S. membership at the Council grants legitimacy to this illegitimate, shameful body.”
Those elected were Argentina, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Estonia, Ethiopia, Gabon, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Montenegro, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Venezuela. All serve three-year terms beginning Jan. 1.