U.S. Reviewing Role in UN Human Rights Council: End Your 'Obsession With Israel'

Senior U.S. official tells Human Rights Council it has to move away from 'unbalanced and unproductive positions.'

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, delivers a speech during the opening of a high-level segment of the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 3, 2014.
File photo: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, delivers a speech during the opening of a high-level segment of the 25th session of the Human Rights Council, 2014. AP

The U.S. Trump administration is reviewing its participation in the top United Nations human rights body, with an eye to reform and a balanced agenda that ends the forum's "obsession with Israel", a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. 

"In order for this Council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions," Erin Barclay, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, told the UN Human Rights Council. 

"As we consider our future engagements, my government will be considering the Council's actions with an eye toward reform to more fully achieve the Council's mission to protect and promote human rights." 

She cited ongoing abuses in Syria and North Korea, and noted in particular the top UN human rights body's long-standing focus on Israel.

"The obsession with Israel...is the largest threat to this council's credibility," said Barclay, a career diplomat.

"When it comes to human rights no country should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any democratic country be regularly subjected to unfair, unbalanced and unfounded bias," she added.

The council's annual rebuke of Israel has been a particular source of irritation for both Republican and Democratic U.S. administrations.

The United States is currently an elected member of the 47-state Geneva forum where its three-year term ends in 2019. 

Israel has repeatedly accused the Council of excessive scrutiny, while ignoring human-rights violations elsewhere in the world.

On Saturday, Politico reported that the Trump administration was considering a U.S. withdrawal from the Council, but added that no immediate pull out is expected. 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly expressed skepticism about the council in meetings with department officials , centering on its treatment of Israel, as well as its membership and usefulness. 

The U.S. declined to seek a seat on the 47-member council when it was formed in 2006, citing skepticism about the membership of some authoritarian states. It joined the council in 2009, after Obama's election, and has played a key role rallying like-minded nations in condemning human rights abuses around the globe.