GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - In a speech to the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reaffirmed Washington's commitment to press for universal protection and promotion of human rights.
In his first appearance before the U.N.'s top human rights body, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made it clear Washington plans to fully re-engage in the work of the council. In order to make its weight felt, he said the U.S. would seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the council in June 2018. The Biden administration rejoined it on February 8 as an observer.
Blinken praised the U.N. Human Rights Council for its role in protecting fundamental freedoms and in focusing attention on unfolding crises, such as the military coup in Myanmar or Burma. However, he criticized the council for its approach to certain issues, including what he called its disproportionate focus on Israel.
"We need to eliminate Agenda Item 7 and treat the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories the same way as this body handles any other country. In addition, we will focus on ensuring that the council membership reflects high standards for upholding human rights. Those with the worst human rights records should not be members of this council," he said.
Blinken acknowledged the United States did not have a stellar human rights record and had room for improvement. He said the Biden administration was committed to fighting systemic racism both at home and abroad.
He said the U.S. will fight for the rights of defenseless people, including women and girls, LGBTQI people, religious and minority groups. He said Washington will continue to denounce abuses in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Iran.
"We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Alexei Navalny, as well as hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained for exercising their rights. We will speak out for universal values when atrocities are committed in Xinjiang or when fundamental freedoms are undermined in Hong Kong. And we are alarmed by the backsliding of democracy in Burma," said U.S. secretary of state.
Blinken called on the council to use this current session to support resolutions addressing issues of concern around the world. He said notorious human rights violators such as Syria, North Korea, Sri Lanka and South Sudan must be held to account.