In regard to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the position of the United States is: “human rights have been a cornerstone of American values since the country’s birth and the United States is committed to support the work of the UN Commission in promoting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the past U.S. President George W. Bush declared that the United States would not seek a seat on the Council, saying it would be more effective from the outside. He did pledge, however, to support the Council financially.State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “We will work closely with partners in the international community to encourage the council to address serious cases of human rights abuse in countries such as Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Burma, Sudan, and North Korea”.
The U.S. State Department said on 5 March 2007 that, for the second year in a row, the United States has decided not to seek a seat on the Human Rights Council, asserting the body had lost its credibility with repeated attacks on Israel and a failure to confront other rights abusers. Spokesman Sean McCormack said the council has had a “singular focus” on Israel, while countries such as Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea have been spared scrutiny. He said that though the United States will have only an observer role, it will continue to shine a spotlight on human rights issues. The most senior Republican member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, supported the administration decision. “Rather than standing as a strong defender of fundamental human rights, the Human Rights Council has faltered as a weak voice subject to gross political manipulation,” she said.
Upon passage of UNHRC’s June 2007 institution building package, the U.S. restated its condemnation of bias in the institution’s agenda. Spokesman Sean McCormack again criticised the Commission for focusing on Israel in light of many more pressing human rights issues around the world, such as Sudan or Myanmar, and went on to criticise the termination of Special Rapporteurs to Cuba and Belarus, as well as procedural irregularities that prevented member-states from voting on the issues; a similar critique was issued by the Canadian representative. On September 2007, the US Senate voted to cut off funding to the council.
The United States joined with Australia, Canada, Israel, and three other countries in opposing the UNHRC’s draft resolution on working rules citing continuing misplaced focus on Israel at the expense of action against countries with poor human-rights records. The resolution passed 154–7 in a rare vote forced by Israel including the support of France, the United Kingdom, and China, although it is usually approved through consensus. United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, spoke about the “council’s relentless focus during the year on a single country – Israel,” contrasting that with failure “to address serious human rights violations taking place in other countries such as Zimbabwe, DPRK (North Korea), Iran, Belarus and Cuba.” Khalilzad said that aside from condemnation of the crackdown of the Burmese anti-government protests, the council’s past year was “very bad” and it “had failed to fulfill our hopes.”
On 6 June 2008, Human Rights Tribune announced that the United States had withdrawn entirely from the UNHRC, and had withdrawn its observer status.
The United States boycotted the Council during the George W. Bush administration, but reversed its position on it during the Obama administration. Beginning in 2009 however, with the United States taking a leading role in the organization, American commentators began to argue that the UNHRC was becoming increasingly relevant.
On 31 March 2009 the administration of Barack Obama announced that it would reverse the country’s previous position and would join the UNHRC.
Under Barack Obama the United States is a strong supporter of the UPR process, which provides a unique avenue for the global community to discuss human rights around the world.
Individual countries are slated for review every four and a half years, with the United States scheduled for its second review in May 2015. UPR sessions take place at the HRC in Geneva, and are framed by reports submitted by national governments. The report submitted by the United States government for its UPR reflects interagency input and consideration of information collected from consultations with civil society and the American public.
Universal Periodic Review Second Cycle – United States of America
For first cycle reports of United States of America, please see here
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Date of consideration: Monday 11 May 2015 – 9.00 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.