Obama reviewing policy on U.N. rights council

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is reviewing its policies on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

"We have not made any determinations at this time," the State Department said in a statement Tuesday issued in response to a reporter’s query.

The statement said the department is looking at the policy toward the council and its related activities, including Universal Process Review. 

The Bush administration chose not to participate in the council after its establishment in 2006, saying the new body was unlikely to ameliorate the anti-Western — and particularly anti-Israel – bias of its predecessor, the U.N. Human Rights Commission. That has been the case, according to Jewish groups who monitor the United Nations.

Nonetheless, some of the groups have advocated U.S. participation, if only to guide the council toward eventual moderation.

The Universal Process Review, now under way at council headquarters in Geneva, is a mechanism the council uses to examine the human rights record of all 192 member nations of the United Nations. Kofi Annan, then the U.N. secretary-general, pushed for  the mechanism to keep the council from exclusively focusing its criticisms on Israel.

U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog, say that it has been ineffective and that the review has turned the council into a "mutual praise society" through which abusers validate each other. Most recently, U.N. Watch said, Egypt praised China for keeping the death penalty, and Iran praised China for imposing Internet censorship.

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