Oct. 14 (UPI) — The United States has rejoined the United Nations Human Rights Council after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the controversial panel three years ago.
United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced the United States had been elected to the Geneva, Switzerland-based council for its 2022-2024 term. She said the election fulfills a campaign pledge of President Joe Biden. The term starts Jan. 1, 2022.
“We will use every tool at our disposal, from introducing resolutions and amendments to wielding our vote when needed,” she said. “Our goals are clear: stand with human rights defenders and speak out against violations and abuses of human rights.”
The Human Rights Council is made up of 47 states that it describes as being “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.” The council has been criticized for including countries with poor human rights records and for pointing a finger at Israel while ignoring accusations of abuse elsewhere.
The Trump administration withdrew from the council in 2018, with then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley calling it a “protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.”
Thomas-Greenfield said the United States will focus its work on the council to what she called “situations of dire need” in Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria, and Yemen. The United States will also use its position to promote respect for women’s rights, minority groups, including LGBTQ persons and persons with disabilities, she said.
Additionally, she said the United States will oppose what she called the council’s “disproportionate attention on Israel,” a close U.S. ally that has drawn criticism for actions in the ongoing conflict with Palestine.
The United States will also press against the election of countries with “egregious human rights records,” she said.
But Thursday saw the election of Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates — all countries accused of serious human rights abuses.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement earlier in the week criticizing the election process that it said guaranteed human rights abusers seats on the council.
“The absence of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes a mockery of the word ‘election,'” Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “Electing serious rights abusers like Cameroon, Eritrea, and the UAE sends a terrible signal that U.N. member states aren’t serious about the council’s fundamental mission to protect human rights.”