Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson With A Strong Message To UN Human Rights Council

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for urgent changes in the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in order to continue receiving American support.

His demand comes after a high-ranking Israeli official urged the U.S. to withdraw from the organization.

“The Human Rights Council deals with demonizing Israel and with efforts to harm it by distorting reality,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Tillerson last week.

Tillerson addressed a letter to several U.N. advocates and human rights groups that have been urging the United States to remain active in the council, and said that the U.S. “continues to evaluate the effectiveness” of the council.

However, skepticism was expected from nation members such as China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, all with poor human rights records.

“We may not share a common view on this, given the makeup of the membership,” Tillerson wrote.

He continued, “While it may be the only such organization devoted to human rights, the Human Rights Council requires considerable reform in order for us to continue to participate.”

Tillerson wrote in the letter that the U.S. would keep participating in the council even as they “reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”

Former President George W. Bush’s administration refused to join the council in 2006 when it was formed, citing the council’s anti-Israel bias as its reason. The Obama administration changed course in 2009 and joined the council.

Last week, Erin Barclay, America’s envoy to the council, said the group focuses its attacks on Israel, Western Journalism reports.

“Regrettably, too many of the actions of this council do not support these universal principles. Indeed, they contradict them,” she said.

“No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item… The obsession with Israel… is the largest threat to this council’s credibility,” she said. “It limits the good we can accomplish by making a mockery of this council. The United States will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel.”

According to Tillerson, U.S. will focus on renewing the mandate of a U.N. Commission of inquiry into atrocities in Syria, and underscoring U.S. support for U.N. observers for Iran, North Korea and Burma.

There has been different understandings on Tillerson’s comments. Some see them as a prelude to an American withdrawal form the council, others believe the U.S. is seeking to reform the council, not leave it.

“I’m afraid this seems to signal that they want to pull out,” said Felice Gaer, of the Jacob Blaustein Institute. “If you want to change the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel it is by being present that it will happen, not by being absent.”

Peter Yeo, the President of the Better World Campaign, said the U.S. is putting pressure on the group to change.

“I think the administration is signaling its intention to pursue far-reaching reforms of the Human Rights Council, including reducing the disproportionate focus on Israel,” he said.

 

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