Mr. President, we join our fellow members in welcoming the President of the Human Rights Council, and we thank him for this report of the Council’s activities during the past year—the first of the United States’ membership on the Council.
The report before us is a reflection of both the Council’s strengths and its weaknesses. Over the past year, we have been proud to participate in many of the Council’s resolutions—particularly those establishing special procedures for the freedom of association and discrimination against women, and also those regarding freedom of opinion and expression, violence against women, trafficking in persons, the protection of human rights defenders, and the protection of the human rights of those with HIV and AIDS. We have also been encouraged by several instances of cross-regional players working together to address human rights problems. Furthermore, we were pleased to participate in the adoption of several resolutions that called attention to human rights situations in specific countries, most recently by the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert for Sudan. These resolutions will help protect and promote human rights around the world and are examples of what we can accomplish when we work together.
However, we continue to be disappointed with the Council’s unbalanced and one-sided approach to the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Council should treat all countries in an unbiased, objective manner. As the report notes, in the past year the Council has passed multiple resolutions that target Israel. The United States could not, and does not, support these resolutions for many reasons—largely because they attempt to delegitimize the Government of Israel and make no mention of the serious violations of international law deliberately committed by Hamas.
This continuing bias is further evident in the Council’s hasty resolution establishing a fact-finding mission with a flawed mandate to investigate the tragic incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships in late May and the Council’s resolution following up on the fact-finding mission’s report. We also oppose the follow-up resolution’s recommendation that the General Assembly consider the Fact-Finding Mission Report, which did not recommend further UN action. We commend the Secretary General’s constructive initiative in convening a panel that will receive and review the results of Israel and Turkey’s investigations, and we welcome the spirit of cooperation that it represents. We continue to regard this panel as the primary method for the international community to review the incident.
When we joined the Council last year, we came willing to support what the Council does well, but we also pledged to challenge old habits that undermine its effectiveness and mandate. It is in this spirit that we engage actively in the 2011 Review. In addition to improving the mechanics and procedures of the Council, we look to working with other member states to strengthen the Council’s response to gross and systemic violations of human rights wherever they occur, to establish methods of work to better implement the existing criteria for Council membership, and to strengthen the independence and functioning of special procedure mandate holders.
Our work on the Council will continue to be guided by the United States’ ongoing, steadfast commitment to human rights and to the four tenets that we espoused when we took our seat on the Council: the universality of human rights, dialogue among nations and people, principled engagement, and fidelity to the truth. We will continue to work together with our fellow Council members to strengthen the Council’s work in order to fulfill its mission and to realize the aspirations and principles embodied in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
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