U.S. Rejoins U.N. Human Rights Council

United States rejoins human rights organization despite U.N. group's anti-Israel stance

November 13, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Monday that the United States is "pleased" to have been reelected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), a controversial body that has been repeatedly chastised for its anti-Israel bias.

The U.S. joined the body after President Barack Obama’s election. Long shunned by the U.S. for its anti-Israel bent, the then-newly elected president claimed he could reform the organization.

Since that time, the HRC has called for a boycott of U.S. companies that do business with Israel and attempted to investigate Israeli settlements.

The U.S. won reelection to the 47-member body on Tuesday after a "competitive" political race against several other Western nations.

"The United States is pleased to have been elected by the United Nations General Assembly to a second term on the Human Rights Council," Clinton said in a statement. "We thank the countries that voted for us in what was a highly competitive race among several qualified Western candidates that are all strong champions of human rights."

Clinton promised to "strengthen the council" and end its "biased focus on Israel."

"We pledge to continue to work closely with the international community to address urgent and serious human rights concerns worldwide and to strengthen the Council," the statement said.

"While much hard work remains to be done, especially ending the Council’s disproportionate and biased focus on Israel, we look forward to cooperating with other Council members to continue to address human rights concerns and to ensure that the Council fully realizes its promise."

Foreign policy observers said the HRC’s anti-Israel bias runs deep and offers the U.S. little room to effect change.

"Elections have consequences," said one GOP foreign policy adviser. "In this case, four more years of membership in a group devoted to castigating Israel and making a mockery of human rights."

Some of the human rights-challenged HRC members include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, and Venezuela.

The U.S. boycotted the HRC under former President George W. Bush.

The Obama administration rejoined the council in 2009. Touting a policy of "engagement," the president promised to use U.S. influence as a means of reform.

However, there is little evidence to show it has reformed.

"Today we see one of the fruits of this new approach," wrote Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration National Security Council adviser.

"The United States was elected to membership again, with 131 votes; and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela was elected, with 154 votes. Besides telling us something about how much popularity Obama foreign policy has won the United States, this vote and the election of Venezuela tell a good deal about the Council and how it is seen around the world."

Democratic and Republican observers have called the HRC’s actions against Israel one-sided and ludicrous.

Its continued focus on Israel is a sign to some that America’s involvement is only giving legitimacy to such campaigns.

"The Obama administration argues that despite its flaws the Council does some good work," Abrams wrote in a blog post for the Council on Foreign Relations. "I am sure it does. But think of the message of contempt the UN Human Rights Council sent today to the embattled democrats of Venezuela—to the millions of citizens heroically struggling to protect human rights there."