The US Department of State [official website] announced on Wednesday that it would pursue a second term [press release] on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website]. In continuing its membership, the US intends to further its stand against the council's "biased and disproportional focus on Israel," and push the council to "address a broad range of urgent and serious human rights concerns worldwide." The State Department highlighted the accomplishments [fact sheet] of the UNHRC over the last two years, citing the council's deepened engagement in human rights situations worldwide, initiation of concrete action to drive human rights priorities, and defense of core human rights principles. State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner expressed the US government's commitment to human rights, saying:
We believe that US engagement in the Human Rights Council has directly resulted in real progress. In our two years on the Council, we've not been happy with every outcome, and have firmly denounced Council actions we disagree with, but the Council has made important strides. Much work remains to be done for the Human Rights Council to sustain the gains of the last two years and to fully realize its potential, and the United States looks forward to continuing our efforts to do so.Last week's 16th session of the UNHRC [press release] adopted 40 resolutions promoting human rights, appointed a Special Rapporteur to assess the human rights situation in Iran and dispatched an independent commission to the Ivory Coast [JURIST reports] to investigate the violation of human rights following the presidential elections. Also, the US led an unprecedented effort to have 85 member-states sign on to a statement supporting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
The US was among 18 countries elected [JURIST report] to the council in May 2009. When the US first took its place [JURIST report] on the UNHRC, the Obama administration faced opposition [Reuters report] from pro-Israel groups. Several other human rights organizations criticized [JURIST report] the council's election process, alleging vote trading and a lack of effective candidates. In April 2009, the State Department released [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] earlier that month, 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. The US's current term on the council will expire in 2011.