The United States on Wednesday called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to drop its “obsession with Israel” amidst reports on the Trump administration reviewing its participation in the body.
In a speech before the Geneva-based council, U.S. envoy Erin Barclay said the United States’ commitment to human rights “is stronger than ever.”
“Regrettably, too many of the actions of this council do not support these universal principles. Indeed, they contradict them,” said Barclay, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.
She cited ongoing abuses in Syria and North Korea, and noted in particular the top U.N. human rights body’s long-standing focus on Israel.
“The obsession with Israel…is the largest threat to this council’s credibility,” said Barclay.
Washington has long argued that the Geneva forum unfairly focuses on Israel’s alleged violations of human rights, including war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The United States “remains deeply troubled by the Council´s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel”, she added.
Barclay questioned whether focusing on Israel was a sensible priority, adding that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime was bombing hospitals while North Korea and Iran deny millions of their people of freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly and expression.
“In order for this Council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions,” Barclay said.
“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.”
The United States is currently an elected member of the 47-state Geneva forum where its three-year term ends in 2019.
There was no immediate reaction from the UN human rights office, but on Tuesday Council spokesman Rolando Gomez told a briefing: “The US been a very active and constructive partner in the Council for many years, spearheading a number of important initiatives, such as DPRK (North Korea), Iran, Syria… and many issues that are certainly on the agenda today.”
He said that any country that wished to revoke its membership of the council would have to go through the General Assembly in New York.