US refuses to join UN rights council, citing its actions against Israel

Published: Tuesday March 6, 2007

The United States will not seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, senior officials said Tuesday, asserting the body had lost its credibility with repeated attacks on Israel and a failure to confront other rights abusers.

"While we continue to remain very engaged on the issue on human rights within the UN system, whether that is the General Assembly or the Security Council, we do not plan this year to run for the human rights council," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns linked the decision to remain off the year-old council to the 47-member panel's stance on Israel, which he said had "discredited" the body.

"It spent the entire year slamming Israel -- four separate hearings by the Human Rights Council of the UN on Israel, but not against Burma, and not against Zimbabwe, and not against North Korea and not against Iran," Burns told a congressional hearing.

The council was created over the objections of the United States, which said there were insufficient safeguards to prevent human rights-abusing nations from dominating the group. It's members are chosen from among UN states each year.

McCormack did not rule out having Washington run for a seat on the council in future.

"If we do come to the day when we decide to run for the Human Rights Council, it will have gotten to the point where it is a credible institution and that we could, in fact, lend our diplomatic weight to the council as a participant," he said.