US Officially Rejoins UN Human Rights Council 3 Years After Trump Pullout

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The United States is returning to the United Nations Human Rights Council more than three years after Trump administration quit the 47-member body that it had branded a “protector of human rights abusers.”

The U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 14 elected the United States as one of 18 new members to the Geneva-based council in an uncontested ballot. The United States received 168 votes for a three-year term beginning on Jan. 1 next year, the second lowest after Eritrea, which got 144 votes.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in New York Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Washington would initially focus on “what we can accomplish in situations of dire need, such as in Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria, and Yemen.”

“Our goals are clear: stand with human rights defenders and speak out against violations and abuses of human rights,” she said in a statement, adding that the United States would also “oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel.”

Then-President Donald Trump pulled out of U.N. rights body in 2018, saying it had failed to live up to its name, citing China, Cuba, and Venezuela as some of the worst rights abusers sitting on the council.

China, which gained a second consecutive term last October by a narrow margin, has been leveraging the platform to expand influence, observers and researchers say.

Jiang Duan, minister at China’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva, was appointed last April to a five-member panel on the human rights council that helps select the body’s independent investigators, despite the regime’s track record of oppression.

In July 2019, Beijing’s delegation twice interrupted a speech by Denise Ho, a Hong Kong singer and prominent pro-democracy activist banned in mainland China, as she urged the council to speak up on the territory’s autonomy.

By Eva Fu

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