US foreign policy

US says its rejoining UN Human Rights Council as observer after Trump withdrawal

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The United States will participate as an observer in the UN Human Rights Council, which it quit in June 2018 under the Trump administration, while seeking reforms, a US envoy told the Geneva forum on Monday.

Mark Cassayre, US charge d’affaires at the US mission to the UN in Geneva, told a council organizational meeting: “I am pleased to inform you that this morning, Secretary (Antony) Blinken will announce that the United States will reengage with the United Nations Human Rights Council as an observer. We do so knowing that the most effective way to reform and improve the Council is to engage with it in a principled fashion.”

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The Trump administration withdrew as a member of the 47 member state council in June 2018, accusing the forum of having a “chronic anti-Israel bias”.

The forum, set up in 2006, has a permanent standing agenda item on suspected violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, which Washington has long wanted removed.

Since quitting, the US delegation has only attended reviews to examine the human rights records of all UN member states - not the council’s regular sessions held three times a year.

“While recognizing the Council’s flaws, we know that this body has the potential to be an important forum for those fighting tyranny and injustice around the world. By being present at the table, we seek to ensure it can live up to that potential,” Cassayre said on Monday.

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