Thursday 22 February 2018

US accuses UN watchdog of 'anti-Israel bias'

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday

Stephanie Nebhay in Geneva

The Trump administration has called for radical reform of the UN Human Rights Council as it accused the body of "chronic anti-Israel bias".

"The United States is looking carefully at this council and our participation in it. We see some areas for significant strengthening," Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, told the Geneva forum, opening a three-week session.

The council's critical stance of Israel has long been a contentious issue for the United States, Israel's main ally.

The body has taken a strong position against Israel's occupation of territory seized in the 1967 Middle East war, its treatment of Palestinians, and its building of Jewish settlements. Most countries consider illegal the settlements that are in areas the Palestinians envisage as part of an eventual independent state.

Washington says the council is stacked with opponents of Israel and boycotted it for three years under President George W Bush before rejoining under Barack Obama in 2009.

"Tragically, we've been down this road before," Ms Haley said later. "America does not seek to leave the Human Rights Council. We seek to re-establish the council's legitimacy."

She named Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi, and Saudi Arabia as not upholding the highest standards despite their membership and said that the forum was becoming "discredited" like its predecessor body, the Human Rights Commission.

The 47-member Council adopted five "biased" resolutions on Israel and the Palestinian territory at its March session, but never even considered a resolution on Venezuela, she said.

"This relentless, pathological campaign against a country that actually has a strong human rights record makes a mockery not of Israel, but of the council itself," Ms Haley said, as some in the audience interrupted briefly with laughter at the remark.

Some activists urged Washington to focus on abuses at home. "It's hard to take Ambassador Haley seriously on US support for human rights in light of Trump administration actions like the Muslim ban and immigration crackdowns," said Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Irish Independent

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