U.S. envoy Erin Barclay addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, asserting that America’s commitment to human rights is “stronger than ever,” but hinting that the Trump administration might reconsider its membership unless the HRC ends its “obsession with Israel.”
“The United States’ commitment to fundamental human rights is stronger than ever,” Barclay stated. “Regrettably, too many of the actions of this Council do not support those universal principles. Indeed, they contradict them.”
Barclay said the United States “remains deeply troubled by the Council’s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country: Israel.”
“No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item,” she pointed out. “How is that a sensible priority? Right now, the Assad regime is bombing hospitals in Syria and forcing its own people to flee as refugees to neighboring countries to escape its murderous rule. Right now, in North Korea and Iran, millions of people are denied their freedoms of religion or belief, of peaceful assembly and association, and of expression.”
“The obsession with Israel through Agenda Item 7 is the largest threat to this Council’s credibility,” she declared. 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, not just in the HRC but wherever it occurs,” she promised. “When it comes to human rights, no country should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any democratic country be regularly subjected to unfair, unbalanced, and unfounded bias.”
“As we consider our future engagements, my government will be considering the Council’s actions with an eye toward reform, to more fully achieve the Council’s mission to protect and promote human rights,” she warned. Barclay’s warning is the strongest official hint to date that the Trump administration is seriously evaluating its membership in the Human Rights Council.
“Building greater credibility of the HRC will increase our ability to help create a better world for individuals in all countries. Together, by turning our attention consistently to the most critical human rights situations, we can make progress and help this body fulfill its mandate to make the world a better, safer place,” she said, clearly indicating a preference for continued membership and reform. She cited some accomplishments of the Human Rights Council, including its work on abuses in North Korea.
Erin Barclay is the deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs and has previously worked in the State Department’s conflict resolution and law enforcement bureaus. She has also worked for a non-profit organization called Network of East West Women, which promotes human rights for women in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.