FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marked on January 27, at the Yad Vashem synagogue in Jerusalem January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is reviewing its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, seeking reform of its agenda and an end to its "obsession with Israel", a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.
Washington has long argued that the Geneva forum unfairly focuses on Israel's alleged violations of human rights, including war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The United States "remains deeply troubled by the Council’s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel", Erin Barclay, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, told the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Barclay said that no other nation had a whole agenda item devoted to it and that "this obsession with Israel" threatened the council's credibility.
Barclay questioned whether focussing on Israel was a sensible priority, adding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was bombing hospitals while North Korea and Iran deny millions of their people of freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly and expression.
"In order for this Council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions," Barclay said.
"As we consider our future engagements, my government will be considering the Council's actions with an eye towards reform to more fully achieve the Council's mission to protect and promote human rights."
The United States is currently an elected member of the 47-state Geneva forum where its three-year term ends in 2019.
There was no immediate reaction from the U.N. human rights office, but on Tuesday Council spokesman Rolando Gomez told a briefing: "The US been a very active and constructive partner in the Council for many years, spearheading a number of important initiatives, such as DPRK (North Korea), Iran, Syria, LGBT rights ... and many issues that are certainly on the agenda today."
He said that any country that wished to revoke its membership of the council would have to go through the General Assembly in New York.
(Additional reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Richard Lough)