Ken Roth in Foreign Policy:
The Trump administration wants to reform the U.N. Human Rights Council. But it cites two concerns that would require conflicting strategies to address. It needs to sort out its priorities if it expects to make any progress.
On one hand, it wants to improve the council’s membership to strengthen its willingness to address the world’s most serious abuses. On the other hand, it wants to abolish the council’s longstanding special agenda item on the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. If the administration insists on elevating its defense of Israel above all else, it risks undermining an essential institution for the global defense of human rights — instead of strengthening it.
The 47-member Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, is the U.N.’s leading human rights body. As with any intergovernmental institution, its effectiveness depends on rallying the votes of its members. Sometimes it falls short: It has neglected, for instance, Egypt’s draconian four-year crackdown to crush all dissent and Venezuela’s decimation of its once-vibrant democracy. But often it succeeds. The most recent session of the council, in September, adopted important resolutions on, among other subjects, Myanmar’s ethnic cleaning of its Rohingya population, Syria’s targeting of hospitals and other civilian institutions, the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing and starving of Yemeni civilians, and South Sudanese fighters’ slaughter of civilians because of their ethnicity.