USA to limit relations with UN Human Rights Council

A White House spokesman announced on Friday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had decided to limit almost all interaction with the United Nations Human Rights Council, branding it ineffective.


The United States has decided to limit further its involvement with the UN Human Rights Council due to its "pathetic" record, a State Department spokesman said Friday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "has taken the decision that we will engage the Human Rights Council really only when we believe that there are matters of deep national interest before the council, and we feel compelled," Sean McCormack told reporters here.

"Our skepticism regarding the function of the council on human rights in terms of fulfilling its mandate and its mission is well-known. It has a rather pathetic record in that regard," McCormack said.

Human Rights Watch branded the US decision as "counter-productive ... short-sighted" and "an abandonment of human rights defenders and victims."

The 47-member, Geneva-based Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the Human Rights Commission, which was discredited because governments with a record of abuse stifled concrete action.

The United States opposed its creation, saying the new body's rules would still not guarantee its effectiveness, and has refused to take a seat.

Two years on, the council is under fire for failing to act on human rights violations in places like Sudan's Darfur region, while at the same time focusing on criticizing Israel for its treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"Instead of focusing on some of the real and deep human rights issues around the world, it has really turned into a forum that seems to be almost solely focused on bashing Israel," McCormack said Friday.

"And, as a result, we're going to choose more selectively how and when we engage the council," he said.

Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, criticized the United States for dropping out of the council, on which it had been serving as an observer since 2006.

"Washington's hands-off approach to the Human Rights Council undermined it from the start," she said.

"It's ironic that the US shares responsibility for the shortcomings it's now using to justify its withdrawal from the council."

"Whatever the council's problems, this decision is a victory for abusive states and a betrayal of those fighting for their rights worldwide," she added.

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