Can The United States Rescue the Human Rights Council?

Despite the urging of top UN Human Rights Official Navi Pillay, member states of the Human Rights Council could not agree to authorize a commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.  The non-western, developing world bloc won the day.

So does this mean that critics are right and that the only country the Human Rights Council can muster itself to probe is Israel?  I admit that it’s beginning to look that way. But before I give up on the institution, I’d wait to see how the council will change when the United States takes its seat next month.  Presumably, with the United States at the table, the Obama administration will feel like it has more of a stake in the outcome of votes like this.

In an interview with Ben Smith last month, Susan Rice said so herself:

“We have a record of abject failure from having stayed out. We’ve been out for the duration and it has not gotten better. It’s arguably gotten worse,” she said. “We are much better placed to be fighting for the principles we believe in — protection of human rights universally, fighting against the anti-Israel crap and for meaningful action on issues that we care about and ought to be the top of the agenda, things like Zimbabwe, Sudan [and] Burma — by leading and lending our voice from within.”

This Sri Lanka vote is certainly a blight on the process, but I do sense that the administration is vested in improving it once it joins.  I just wish that yesterday’s vote had the benefit of American participation.