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The US Returns to the UN Human Rights Council, Vows to Defend Israel

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JERUSALEM, Israel – The United States is returning to the UN Human Rights Council more than three years after Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the body.

The US was elected to the council on Thursday in an uncontested vote alongside 17 other states, including Benin, Gambia, and India.

Human rights advocates quickly criticized the council for electing countries with poor human rights records, such as the United Arab Emirates, Cameroon, and Eritrea.

“The absence of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes a mockery of the word `election,’” said Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch. “Electing serious rights abusers like Cameroon, Eritrea, and the United Arab Emirates sends a terrible signal that U.N. member states aren’t serious about the council’s fundamental mission to protect human rights.”

China, Cuba, Russia, Pakistan, Libya, Mauritania, and Venezuela will remain members of the council.

UN Watch, an NGO that monitors anti-Israel bias and concerns, told AFP the elections are supposed to weed out the world’s worst human rights abusers.

But “oppressive regimes like China, Cuba, Libya, Russia and Eritrea routinely win election, and the stamp of international legitimacy,” said Hillel Neuer.

The Trump administration left the 47-member council in 2018, accusing it of excessively targeting Israel and giving a voice to human rights abusers.

Israel has long accused the council of being biased against it and does not cooperate with investigations into alleged Israeli human rights violations.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said the Biden administration would continue to fight the council’s anti-Israel bias.

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“We will oppose the Council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the Council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country,” she said in a statement.

State Department spokesman Ned Price has also said that the US will “vigorously oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel.”

When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in February that the Biden administration would re-join the council, he said Trump’s withdrawal “did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of US leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”

China has used the United States’ absence to wield greater influence in the council.

"The Chinese and all those who are fundamentally against human rights as Europeans understand them... oppose economic, social and cultural rights. It is not a new trend, but it is undeniably growing stronger," one European diplomat told AFP.

Marc Limon, executive director of the Universal Rights Group think-tank in Geneva, said the US has "basically focused on just one thing, which is China,” since re-engaging with the council earlier this year.

Chen Xu, China's ambassador to the UN,  told reporters on Wednesday that he hoped Washington would "conduct a constructive dialogue and try not to make human rights a political vehicle" once back on the council.

The newly-elected countries will remain on the council for three years, beginning on Jan 1.

In total, the 18 states chosen for the council include Benin, Gambia, Cameroon, Somalia, and Eritrea from the Africa group; India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, and UAE from the Asia group; Lithuania and Montenegro from the East European group; Paraguay, Argentina, and Honduras from the Latin America and Caribbean group; and Finland, Luxembourg and the United States from the mainly Western nations group.

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About The Author


Emily Jones is a multi-media journalist for CBN News in Jerusalem. Before she moved to the Middle East in 2019, she spent years regularly traveling to the region to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meet with government officials, and raise awareness about Christian persecution. During her college years, Emily served as president of Regent University's Christians United for Israel chapter and spoke alongside world leaders at numerous conferences and events. She is an active member of the Philos Project, an organization that seeks to promote positive Christian engagement with the Middle