Geneva: (Agencies): In a break with the policy of the previous Bush administration, the United States is to work again with the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Mark Storella of the US mission to the United Nations in Geneva, told the Geneva-based council on Wednesday that his country "looked forward to participating in the council’s deliberations" where it will be an active observer.
The US had always been critical of the council, which was established in 2006. The country has never sought a seat on the council and withdrew almost completely nine months ago, accusing it of bias against Israel and failure to confront human-rights abuses in a number of other countries.
Storella quoted President Barack Obama’s promise to a joint session of the US Congress that "a new era of engagement has begun".
However, he made it clear that the US still had serious reservations about the council, in particular the politicization of human rights and the singling out of Israel.
A New York-based advocacy group, the international rights watchdog Human Rights First, meanwhile said that President Barack Obama should place the United States in the running for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council to show the world the country is serious about human rights and boost the committee’s efficacy.
The George W. Bush administration declined to join the 47-member Human Rights Council since its creation in 2006. Upon Obama’s inauguration in January, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth called on the new president "to signal the U.S. government’s willingness to rejoin the international community and subject itself to the rule of law by ‘re-signing’ the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty, seeking membership on the UN Human Rights Council, and ratifying neglected major human rights treaties." U.S. absence from these conventions has allowed states to undermine international rights enforcement, for example by disputing criticism of the repressive Burmese military regime, specified Roth.