Washington, March 21: The United States on Monday boycotted the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s debate on Israel or Agenda Item Seven in order to protest against the biasedness of the organization in which in which Israel was singled out.
Mark Toner, the US State Department’s acting spokesperson, in an official statement, said, the US strongly and unequivocally opposes the existence of the UN Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item Seven: “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” He further quoted saying, “Today’s actions in the Council are yet another reminder of that body’s long-standing bias against Israel.”
He added that the efforts, which were said to have motivated the Trump administration to boycott the UNHRC’s session, threaten the council’s credibility. “No other nation has an entire agenda item dedicated to it at the council. The continued existence of this agenda item is among the largest threats to the credibility of the council.”
Toner further said, “As an expression of our deeply-held conviction that this bias must be addressed in order for the Council to realize its legitimate purpose, the United States decided not to attend the Council’s Item Seven General Debate session. It does not serve the interests of the Council to single out one country in an unbalanced matter. Later this week, the United States will vote against every resolution put forth under this agenda item and is encouraging other countries to do the same.”
“The U.S. is dedicated to the pursuit of respect for international human rights by all countries in the world and we call on all UN member states and international partners who are committed to human rights to work with us to pursue much-needed reforms in the UN Human Rights Council,” Toner concluded.
America is one of the council’s 47 member-states, but the Trump administration has warned that it could reconsider its participation unless a number of changes are made, including changes in the UNHRC’s treatment of Israel.
Notably, the US pledged to vote against five anti-Israel resolutions the council is expected to pass later this week. The UNHRC will also likely approve seven resolutions regarding human rights abuses in seven other countries, including Syria and Iran. However, the UN Human Rights Council is mandated to dedicate Agenda Item Seven to a discussion on human rights abuses in Israel at every session.
Interestingly, US remarks come after a UN rights expert issued a blistering criticism of Israel’s policies during the UNHRC’s session. Importantly, Item Seven on the UNHRC’s agenda was entitled “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”, was said to have included several anti-Israel declarations that the US fiercely objects to.
As a result, the US decided not to attend the discussion on that matter, claiming that it “does not serve the interests of the council to single out one country in an unbalanced matter.” US President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he was considering pulling out of the council until it undergoes considerable reforms to an agenda which he described to have reflected an “obsession with Israel”.
The announcement was later opposed by various human rights groups that work with the council, including the American Jewish Committee, claiming that the US participation “mitigates” the anti-Israel bias.