Tuesday, March 31, 2009

United States to rejoin U.N. Human Rights Council

Is this good or bad for Israel? Could the HRC be any worse than it is?
UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- The Obama administration decided Tuesday to seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing a decision by the Bush administration to shun the United Nations' premier rights body to protest the influence of repressive states.
"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. "With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system. . . . We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies."
The United States announced it would participate in elections in May for one of three seats on the 47-member council, joining a slate that includes Belgium and Norway.
New Zealand, which had also been on the ballot, supports the U.S. decision and withdrew its name to make room for the United States, Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced. "Frankly, by any objective measure, membership of the Council by the U.S. is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them," he said.
The decision was welcomed by U.N. officials and rights advocates, who had been briefed on the decision. Human rights activists have been advocating U.S. membership in the council since its creation in March 2006.

"This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective," said a human rights advocate familiar with the decision. "I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen."
The Geneva-based Human Rights Council was established in March 2006 to replace the 60-year-old Human Rights Commission, which lost international credibility after countries with abysmal rights records, such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, were allowed to join and thwart criticism of their actions.
Reached Tuesday, Bolton denounced the Obama administration's decision. "This is like getting on board the Titanic after it's hit the iceberg," he said. "This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn't deserve legitimacy."

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