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Congressman Randy Hultgren

Representing the 14th District of ILLINOIS

Randy Hultgren: US should remain on UN council to address human rights abuses

Jun 22, 2017
In The News

Washington Examiner

Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., is urging the Trump administration to remain in the United Nations Human Rights Council as rumblings continue over the United States' possible withdrawl from the group.

On June 14, Hultgren authored a letter with co-chair James McGovern, D-Mass., to President Trump stating the U.S. should maintain its role leading the UNHRC. The letter was also sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

In the letter, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission — which Hultgren co-chairs — stated it was "deeply concerned" about the UNHRC's inconsistencies on defending and promoting human rights. However, the commission noted this gave the U.S. a chance to strengthen the UNHRC and lead from within.

"Our government should lead our allies in holding council members accountable for gross violations of human rights, and when necessary convene special sessions addressing abuses," the letter read.

The council was created in 2006 and the U.S. has been an active member since 2009, though talk of the U.S. leaving has been swirling for months.

In March, Tillerson wrote a letter to the council stating reforms were necessary, adding the U.S. would reconsider its membership. Tillerson said he was troubled by the council's inclusion of human rights abusers such as China and Saudi Arabia, as well as its continued mistreatment of Israel.

The Council has issued 68 resolutions against Israel, more than any other country. Israel has also been the subject of the controversial Agenda Item 7, which requires a debate of alleged human rights abuses against Palestinians at every session.

In May, speculation heightened over whether Haley would pull the U.S. out of the council. On June 6, Haley addressed members in Geneva, stating the UNHRC should do more to address human rights concerns, but opted against calling for a withdrawal.

In a phone interview with The Washington Examiner, Hultgren said he has been encouraged in his communications with the new administration. Hultgren said Tillerson and Haley reaffirmed his view that it is the role of the U.S. to foster better relationships at the U.N. and speak up when human rights abuses occur. On Thursday, Hultgren and members of the Commission met with Haley to discuss U.S. involvement on human rights issues.

"Human rights (concerns) have been a part of our history since World War II, so it's important to be a part of ongoing discussions in order to build positive relations," Hultgren said.

Hultgren said while the U.S. has been on the council, it has focused on two main areas that could be improved: addressing the number of countries recognized as human rights violators through specific resolutions and the disproportionate focus on Israel. Hultgren hoped U.S. involvement would "renew the right direction" for the council to address those who caused harm and protect victims rather than focus on "agenda-pushing."

"Historically, we've made a positive impact when we've had others working with us at the U.N.," Hultgren said.

Hultgren said if the U.S. left the council, it would have a major impact.

Hultgren provided data showing the U.S. has played an influential role when directly involved on the council. In 2015, the council adopted 31 country-specific resolutions, more than double the number the council adopted in 2006, 2007 or 2008. This year alone, the council has already adopted more country-specific resolutions than it did at this time last year.

Resolutions against Israel have also significantly declined as a result of U.S. involvement on the council. From 2006 to 2008, the council adopted 33 country-specific resolutions with 17 of those being resolutions against Israel. However, in 2015 the council adopted 31 country-specific resolutions and only five of those against Israel.