The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that the US will seek to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018, after accusing the UNHRC of hypocrisy and bias against Israel, the Washington Examiner reports.
Elections for three-year membership on the 47-member council are due at the UN General Assembly in October.
“The US is committed to a world where those who commit human rights abuses are held accountable,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“President Biden is committed to a foreign policy that unites our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership, centered on the defence of democracy and the protection of human rights.”
At the time of the US withdrawal, then-UN ambassador Nikki Haley said, “We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights. The council ceases to be worthy of its name after ignoring abuses in Venezuela and Congo.”
The council, set up in 2006, has a stand-alone item on the Palestinian territories on its agenda every session – the only issue with such treatment – in which it routinely adopts resolutions condemning alleged violations by Israel in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have opposed this as bias.
Blinken acknowledged an “unacceptable bias against Israel” at the UNHRC and condemned “rules that allow countries with atrocious human rights records to occupy seats”.
He said the US will try to “improve” the council’s shortcomings. “From investigations into abuses in Syria and North Korea to promoting rights for women and LGBTQI persons and other minorities, and combatting racism and religious persecution, the Human Rights Council must support those fighting against injustice and tyranny.”
Olivia Dalton, a spokesman for the US Mission to the UN said. “We recognise the UNHCR has its flaws, but the only way we can ensure it fulfils its important mandate is by being at the table as an observer and working with our partners and allies to make it better.”
Britain, China and Russia are among the members, as are the Philippines and Venezuela which are under formal scrutiny by the council.
“Those countries with the worst human rights records should not be members of this council,” Blinken said. “We will continue to call out abuses in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Iran.”
He reiterated the US call on Russia to release opposition figure Alexei Navalny as well as hundreds of others detained during protests over his imprisonment.
He said Washington would denounce atrocities in Xinjiang, China’s western region where activists say ond million Muslim Uighurs are held in camps.
And he acknowledged rights issues at home, saying the US would work to combat both systemic racism and economic injustice.