Item 5 General Debate: Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
as delivered by Jason Mack

UN Human Rights Council – 37th Session
Geneva, March 14, 2018

Thank you, Mr. President.

The Human Rights Council (HRC) has done much to advance the cause of human rights, calling out human rights violations and abuses, encouraging positive action, and changing lives.  At its best, the Human Rights Council fulfils its promise as the world’s premier body charged with the protection and promotion of human rights.

However, taking several sensible measures to improve the efficiency, membership, and agenda of this Council would substantially improve the Council’s ability to promote human rights.

Like many Council members, the United States is concerned that the increasing number of meetings, as well as their increasing lengths and attendant costs, is untenable.  We laud the Bureau for its efforts this winter to propose a way forward that would have allowed this body to complete its work this year, and we support the Bureau’s leadership in continuing such discussions to find a consensus on efficiency measures as soon as possible.  This Council must find a way to become more efficient so that it is able to complete all of its work, including addressing urgent issues.  In this regard, we were pleased that the Council was able to respond quickly to the crisis in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta through the urgent debate on March 5.

No state should use its seat on the HRC to shield itself from criticism or frustrate efforts to safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms in other countries.  The UPR has been a good step in allowing member states that strive to improve their human rights performance to receive recommendations for good practices from others.  We also believe that Human Rights Council members should lead by example in cooperating with OHCHR and special procedures mandate holders as well as in calling out reprisals perpetrated against UN mandate holders and staff and against human rights defenders who participate in UN meetings.

Finally, the United States remains adamantly opposed to the Council’s continued and unacceptable anti-Israel bias through the persistence of Item 7.  The existence of an agenda item focused on a single country goes against the principle of the equality of all members found in the UN Charter.  We have said many times – when it comes to human rights, no country should be free from scrutiny.  But the institutional integrity of this Council demands the elimination of a biased standing agenda item that aims to delegitimize and isolate Israel.

We welcome ideas and all constructive support for the reforms we believe are essential for this Council to realize its enormous potential.

Thank you.