In an address to the Center for a New American Security, Rice said President Obama had “made the controversial decision” to join the HRC – a reversal from his predecessor’s policy – “so we could lead in reforming that flawed institution from within.”
“In fact, we have made it more effective,” she continued. “And because of our efforts, the council has over the past five years spent far more time spotlighting abuses in places like [Muammar] Gaddafi’s Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Iran, than it has on demonizing Israel.”
But during the 14 regular sessions held by the council since the U.S. took its seat on the HRC for the first time in September 2009, Israel has continued to be the country most singled out – by far – for criticism in country-specific resolutions. That situation remains unchanged until today.
A review of U.N. records over the period of U.S. membership reveals that Israel has been condemned in a total of 32 resolutions.
At the same time, the tally for other countries generally acknowledged to have poor human rights records has been: Syria, 13; Iran, 4; North Korea, 4; Libya, 4; Burma, 4; Sudan, 3; Cuba, 0; Pakistan, 0; Saudi Arabia, 0; Russia, 0; and China, 0. The latter five countries have themselves been members of the HRC for most of its eight-year existence.
In 2010, Israel was targeted eight times in critical resolutions – almost half of the total number of country-specific resolutions passed that year, including one each for Sudan, Burma and North Korea.
In 2011, seven resolutions condemned Israel alone. Otherwise, the HRC in regular sessions that year adopted two resolutions applying to Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and Burundi, and one each to another 12 countries including Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Burma, Somalia and Sudan. (In special sessions in 2011, three resolutions targeting Syria were passed.)
In 2012, the HRC during regular sessions passed five resolutions condemning Israel, four relating to Syria, three to Somalia, two to Eritrea, Mali and Yemen, and one each to 13 other countries, including Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Libya and Burma. (Syria was further targeted in one resolution during a special session in June of that year.)
In 2013, six resolutions criticized Israel, four applied to Syria and two to the Central African Republic. Fifteen other countries were covered in a single resolution each, including Iran, Burma, Somalia and North Korea.
And so far this year, the HRC resolution tally is five for Israel, and one each for eight other countries, including Syria, Iran, North Korea and Burma.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to be the only country – out of 192 U.N. member states – that is subjected to a permanent item on the HRC agenda, a situation that places it in the dock at every regular council session, whatever crises may be occurring anywhere else in the world.
The administration frequently has criticized the Israel-focused agenda item, but its attempts to have it removed have been unsuccessful.
Although the administration cannot accurately claim to have ended the HRC’s skewed focus on Israel when it comes to the resolution count or the permanent agenda item, its membership on the council has helped to reduce the number of special sessions aimed at Israel.
Since its formation in 2006, the HRC has held 17 such sessions dealing with human rights abuses in specific countries, six of them focused on Israel. Five of the six were held before the U.S. joined in late 2009, and only one since then.
Of the other seven special sessions held since the U.S. became a member, four applied to Syria, and one each to Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic.
The U.S. also has consistently voted against Israel-centric resolutions, usually accounting for the lone “no” vote.