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The US formally joins the controversial United Nations Human Rights Council

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The US was elected on Thursday in an undisputed vote of member states by the UN General Assembly. President Joe Biden had said he would return the US to the Geneva-based organization. Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates also joined the Human Rights Council on Thursday despite concerns about their internal registrations voiced by human rights organizations.

The US received 168 votes, a slight drop from what other countries received to take three-year terms.

UN Human Rights Council describe in itself as “an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights across the globe and for addressing and addressing human rights abuses”.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement celebrating the U.S. return to the council that initial U.S. efforts on the council will focus on Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen. She said the U.S. goals will be “to stand with human rights defenders and speak out against human rights violations and abuses.”

“More broadly, we will promote respect for fundamental freedoms and women’s rights and oppose religious intolerance, racial and ethnic injustice, and violence and discrimination against members of minority groups, including LGBTQI + persons and persons with disabilities.” she continued, adding that the US “will press against the selection of countries with high human rights record and encourage those committed to the promotion and protection of human rights both at home and abroad.” to seek membership. ”

In particular, Thomas-Greenfield said the US “will oppose the Council’s disproportionate attention to Israel, which includes the only item on the Council’s agenda aimed at a single country.”

The then US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused the council of prejudice against Israel and failure to seek accountability for human rights violators when the US left the panel in 2018.

“For a long time,” Haley said in 2018, “The Human Rights Council has been a defender of human rights abusers and a well of political prejudice.”

“Human rights abusers continue to serve and be elected to the council,” she said. “The most inhumane regimes in the world continue to escape his scrutiny, and the council continues to politicize the deletion of victims of countries with positive human rights record in an effort to attract the attention of abusers in its ranks.

Biden Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US would rejoin the council in February.

There are 47 member states on the council, and current members include countries that have been accused of serious human rights abuses such as China, Russia and Venezuela.

In a statement issued Thursday, Blinken acknowledged the U.S. readmission to the group and acknowledged that the council “suffers from serious shortcomings, including disproportionate attention to Israel and the membership of several states with appalling human rights record.”

“Together, we must oppose efforts to overthrow the ideals on which the Human Rights Council was founded, including that every person be endowed with human rights and that states have an obligation to uphold them. “, added Blinken.

The council has long been criticized for involving countries with tainted data in the protection of human rights in their territory. Ahead of Thursday’s UN vote, the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch warned that a non-competitive election “practically guarantees seats for candidate countries with abysmal rights”, urging UN member states to abstain from voting for Cameroon, Eritrea, United Arab Emirates especially among others.

And the American Civil Liberties Union urged the Biden administration to prioritize human rights in domestic politics following the U.S. re-election to the council.

“President Biden during his presidential campaign promised to restore relations with international partners and to focus human rights at home and abroad under his administration and to lead by the power of example,” the ACLU statement said. “However, despite the council elections, the United States’ human rights record remains very problematic, not least because the country has not yet ratified or fully implemented key international human rights treaties and failed to implement the recommendations. made by regional and global humanity human rights bodies “.

The re-election of the United States to the Human Rights Council is the latest attempt to restore the U.S. position on the global stage through its involvement in multilateral organizations and treaties rejected by the Trump administration. Biden overturned US withdrawal from World Health Organization and climate deals in Paris.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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