US resumes observer participation in UN rights council

[JURIST] The US is resuming active participation as an observer in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website, JURIST news archive], according to interim Charge d'Affaires to the US Mission in Geneva Mark Sorella [official profile] in his address [statement text] to the council Wednesday. Sorella said that the US is committed "to work alongside all those working in good faith to promote and protect the human rights of every person around the world." Sorella also emphasized that:

the United States remains concerned about the politicization of human rights, and about this Council’s repeated singling out of one country. We are concerned about this Council’s failure thus far to address some of the most egregious human rights violations in the world today, and about isolated but alarming attempts by some to use Council resolutions to undermine universal human rights, such as freedom of expression. We call on all in this chamber to recommit to advancing human rights for all – and to end the politicization of this effort.
The US withdrew from participation [AFP report, HRW report] in June 2008, citing discontentment with the council's record during its first two years in confronting abuses and alleging Council unilateral bias against Israel. The US has declined to run for a seat since the UNHRC commenced operations.

Last week, the US threatened to boycott [Washington Post report] the UN Durban Review Conference on racism [official website] to take place in April, as long as the conference is based on the current outcome document draft that the US alleges is biased against Israel. The US refuses to continue negotiations [press release] on the document that the Department of State believes "must not single out any one country or conflict, nor embrace the troubling concept of 'defamation of religion' [and] ... should not go further than the DDPA on the issue of reparations for slavery." Last month, the US representatives remained silent during the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [materials] of potential rights abuses. State Department spokesperson Robert Wood defended the silence of the US delegates [press conference transcript; JURIST report] during the UPR, saying that the US was not actively participating because the administration of President Barack Obama [official website] was still deciding how it wanted to interact with the council.

 

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