HUMAN RIGHTS hrw.orgDefending Human Rights Worldwide
WATCH

Human Rights News FrenchSpanishRussianKoreanArabicHebrewspacer
RSSPortugueseGermanChinesePersianMore Languagesspacer
   

US: Leaving UN Rights Council Fails Victims of Abuse

US Failure to Engage Added to Council’s Shortcomings

(Geneva, June 6, 2008) – A decision by the United States to disengage from the UN Human Rights Council amounts to an abandonment of human rights defenders and victims, Human Rights Watch said today.

" Washington’s hands-off approach to the Human Rights Council undermined it from the start. It’s ironic that the US shares responsibility for the shortcomings it’s now using to justify further distancing itself from the council. "
Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director
  
Contribute

Related Material

Don't Write It Off Yet
Commentary, June 21, 2007

Testimony Delivered to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Testimony, July 26, 2007

More on the Human Rights Council
Thematic Page, June 6, 2008

The United States announced today at its daily State Department briefing that it will only participate in debates at the council when absolutely necessary and it feels compelled to do so by “matters of deep national interest.” The United States failed to take the floor today in a council discussion on Burma, indicating the broad scope of its withdrawal. Although not a member of the Human Rights Council, the United States had participated as an observer at the council since its inception in 2006.  
 
“The US decision to walk away from the Human Rights Council is counter-productive and short-sighted,” said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Whatever the council’s problems, this decision is a victory for abusive states and a betrayal of those fighting for their rights worldwide.”  
 
The council remains a critical institution for protecting human rights throughout the world, despite some substantial weaknesses, Human Rights Watch said. The council’s system of human rights monitors, for example, provides crucial reporting on abuses such as torture, violence against women and extrajudicial executions, and on countries with ongoing human rights crises, such as Burma, Somalia and Sudan.  
 
In its first two years, however, the Human Rights Council has failed to address more than 20 human rights situations that require its attention, eliminated human rights monitoring in places desperately in need of such scrutiny, and adopted a long stream of one-sided resolutions on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories which failed to consider the roles and responsibilities of the Palestinian authorities and armed groups. Given its failure to engage fully at the council, the United States was ill-placed to confront those problems.  
 
“Washington’s hands-off approach to the Human Rights Council undermined it from the start,” said de Rivero. “It’s ironic that the US shares responsibility for the shortcomings it’s now using to justify further distancing itself from the council.”  
 
The US decision was also ill-conceived, Human Rights Watch said, given the absence of viable alternatives to the council. Human Rights Watch also questioned the timing of the US decision. On May 21, the General Assembly held elections for membership of the Human Rights Council. In those elections, following a campaign by human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and worldwide, Sri Lanka’s bid for a seat was defeated. Sri Lanka has a track record of enforced disappearances and torture. That defeat, and the defeat of Belarus in the previous year, demonstrated the potential for building a stronger council with a membership truly committed to fighting human rights abuses.  
 
Human Rights Watch noted that the human rights record of the US, particularly abuses in its counterterrorism efforts, undermined its credibility in defending human rights at the council. The US failed to cooperate with human rights experts from the council who sought to investigate its Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Despite those concerns, states with a record of supporting human rights at the council stressed that having the US at the table was very important to building a stronger, more effective Human Rights Council.  
 
In March 2006, the United States was one of only four states that voted against the UN General Assembly Resolution establishing the new Human Rights Council. That year, and in two subsequent elections of members to the council, the United States did not seek a seat on the body.  
 
“Instead of ceding the field to those who want to shield abusers from scrutiny, the US should have redoubled its efforts to make the council work as it should,” de Rivero said.
 

 
Suggest This Page to a Friend
Your Email (required)
Your Friend's Name
Friend's Email (required)
Email addresses are not stored.
Your Message



Enter Security Code
(case sensitive)




Please read the HRW Privacy Policy

HRW Logo Contribute to Human Rights Watch

Home | About Us | News Releases | Publications | Info by Country | Global Issues | Campaigns | Community | Bookstore | Film Festival | Search | Site Map | Contact Us | Press Contacts | Privacy Policy

© Copyright 2006, Human Rights Watch    350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor    New York, NY 10118-3299    USA