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UN Human Rights Council

The meeting room of the United Nations Human Rights Council is seen in this 2017 photo. (Photo:  UN/Elma Okic/cc)

US Urged to 'Step Up' at Home After Reelection to UN Human Rights Council

"The United States' uncontested election to the Human Rights Council doesn't change the fact that we lag far behind on our international human rights obligations."

Andrea Germanos

The United States was urged Thursday to "step up and prioritize human rights in domestic policy" in response to its reelection to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The U.S. was among the 18 members the U.N. General Assembly elected for the human rights body for a three-year term beginning next year. 

"The Biden administration must take bold action to advance human rights and racial justice at home and abroad."

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the council, with Ambassador Nikki Haley accusing the body of having a "chronic bias against Israel" and being a "self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."

In a statement following the Thursday vote, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would "work hard to ensure the council upholds its highest aspirations and better supports those fighting against injustice and tyranny around the world."

While praising the U.N. body for playing "a meaningful role in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms by documenting atrocities in order to hold wrongdoers accountable" and focusing "attention on emergencies and unfolding human rights crises, ensuring that those who are voiceless have a place to be heard," he said it still has "serious flaws."

Those flaws, said Blinken, include its "disproportionate attention on Israel and the membership of several states with egregious human rights records."

The U.S. move to rejoin the council, meanwhile, was welcomed by Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Program, who said the Biden administration must now follow up with greater action to protect human rights within the United States.

"The tough work still lies ahead," he said, adding that "the United States' uncontested election to the Human Rights Council doesn't change the fact that we lag far behind on our international human rights obligations."

"From ending mass incarceration to dismantling systemic racism to protecting immigrants' rights, the Biden administration must take bold action to advance human rights and racial justice at home and abroad," Dakwar continued.

"Rhetoric and symbolic gestures are not enough," he said, "it's time for the United States to step up and prioritize human rights in domestic policy."


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