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US takes seat on UN rights council

[JURIST] The US officially took its place on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] for the first time Monday. In an address [text] to the council, US Assistant Secretary for the Organization of International Affairs Esther Brimmer [official profile] discussed four themes the US sees as key to its role on the council: the universality of human rights, the importance of dialogue between countries, the application of fundamental principles of human rights, and the need for truth and honesty in confronting human rights violations. Brimmer acknowledged that the US had made mistakes regarding human rights in the past but noted the progress of the US in correcting those lapses. The US's term on the council will expire in 2011.

Last month, several human rights organizations criticized [JURIST report] the council's election process, alleging vote trading and a lack of effective candidates. The US was among 18 countries elected [JURIST report] to the council in May. In April, the US State Department [official website] released [press release; JURIST report] its commitments and pledges to human rights in anticipation of May election. The US announced its intent to seek a seat on the council [JURIST report] in early April, hoping to affect more change by working from inside the council than by boycotting the effort. The UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006 to replace the much-criticized Committee on Human Rights, at which time the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment by the UNHRC.

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