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UN rights council adopts outcome of US review

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on Friday held a debate and adopted the outcomes [press release] from its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the US. The review provided the US with 228 recommendations in 10 different areas regarding human rights policies and practices. Harold Hongju Koh [academic profile], a representative of the US Department of State (DOS), accepted recommendations made regarding immigration rights and stated that the government was in the process of reviewing its handling of refugee cases. The US was commended for continuing to protect the environment and also for its initiatives in the fight against human trafficking. Members of the committee condemned the US for rejecting many of the recommendations without reason. Among others, the US rejected calls to ban racial discrimination and religious profiling, close the Guantanamo Bay facilities, and abolish the death penalty. Koh argued that capital punishment was not precluded by international law. He urged delegations to look at the bigger picture of the progress the US has made regarding human rights and justice instead of looking at individual recommendations. Koh called the Universal Periodic Review an "ongoing process."

Koh echoed objections he made when the recommendations were first issued [JURIST report] in November. In August, the DOS released its own human rights review [JURIST report] and presented the report to the UNHRC. In the report, the DOS acknowledged the US government's historical struggle with some human rights issues including gender and racial equality, but noted the progress made in both areas. The Obama administration received criticism from both human rights groups and US politicians for initially not taking part [press release] in the UPR sessions, a process which each of the 192 UN member states must undergo every four years [JURIST comment]. This marks the US government's first UPR evaluation before the UNHRC. The US was elected to the UNHRC [JURIST report] in May 2009. The UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006, at which time the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment.

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