Obama administration claims wins on UN Human Rights Council

The Obama administration is claiming several big wins during the UN Human Rights Council's (HRC) first session since the United States was reappointed to the council in November.

Topping the list: Unanimous support for the creation of a U.S.-backed Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea, a communist country widely believed to hold between 100,000 and 200,000 people in concentration camps. The probe represents a significant shift for regional powers, such as South Korea and Japan, which have long fretted against antagonizing their volatile neighbor, but have joined in the global condemnation of North Korea following its recent nuclear and missile tests.

“U.S. leadership helped to keep the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights,” the State Department said in a statement. “We continue to engage strategically with the goal of making the HRC a more effective and credible multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights.”

The council also supported a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning human-rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The resolution however fell short of demanding an independent investigation of war crimes in the 26-year civil war and continuing human rights abuses since then, after being watered down under pressure from India.

In other action, the council renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria for another year and renewed the mandate for a Special Rapporteur on Iran. The panel also asked Burma to set a timetable for establishing an office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and called for an independent expert to look into human rights violations in Mali.

The United States, however, continued to butt heads with much of the rest of the world with regard to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and continued settlement expansion.  The 22nd session of the Human Rights Council ended Friday.