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Thursday Nov. 4, 2010 10:06 AM (EST+7)
US faults human rights body, will still work with it

Read more: human rights, United Nations, UN human rights council, US policy, US foreign policy

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The United States criticized the main UN human rights forum on Wednesday for what it called an unbalanced approach to Israel but made clear it would go on working with a body it joined just last year.

The comments in the UN General Assembly came as the United States is placing its own rights record under scrutiny this week by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which is gradually examining the performance of all 192 UN members.

US envoy Rick Barton praised some of the council's work but said Washington continued to be disappointed with the council's unbalanced and one-sided approach to the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The 47-member council, set up in 2006 to replace a discredited commission, is dominated by a bloc of developing countries, many of them Muslim. Israel and its allies charge that it devotes an excessive amount of time to condemning the practices of the Jewish state.

Barton told an assembly session considering a report by the council on its activities over the past year that the United States could not support council resolutions targeting Israel.

He said such resolutions attempt to delegitimize the government of Israel and did not mention the serious violations of international law deliberately committed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Barton also criticized the council's hasty resolution to set up a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel's May 31 attack on an aid flotilla trying to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza, in which Israeli commandos killed nine people.

Despite opposition by some pro-Israel groups, the Obama administration took the United States into the council last year with a promise to focus on traditional Western concerns about civil and political freedoms.

Barton said that despite U.S. reservations, Washington would continue to work together with our fellow council members to strengthen the council's work to carry out principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The council was harshly attacked in the assembly debate by Israeli envoy Haim Waxman, who accused it of turning a blind eye to the worst human rights violations throughout the world, while conveniently and obsessively focusing on Israel.

This, however, should come as no surprise considering that some of the world's worst human rights violators sit on this council and all too often dictate its proceedings, Waxman said.

Other speakers praised the work of the council. Opening the debate, its president, Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand, said that over the past year it had fulfilled its mandates to advance the promotion and protection of human rights. (Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)







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