US returns to UN Human Rights Council

UNITED NATIONS - The United States was on Thursday elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council, following its withdrawal in June 2018.

In a vote at the UN General Assembly, the United States was elected along with 17 other countries for a three-year term beginning on Jan 1, 2022.

The United States under the administration of Donald Trump withdrew from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in June 2018, accusing the council of being a "hypocritical and self-serving organization" and biased against Israel. The US seat was later taken by Iceland in a by-election.

After the election of Joe Biden as US president, Washington declared in February 2021 that it would reengage with the council as an observer. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the US withdrawal in 2018 "did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of US leadership".

In Thursday's vote through secret ballot, the United States won 168 out of the 193 votes. In the same regional group, Finland and Luxembourg won 180 votes respectively. Of all the 18 candidates, the United States won the second-lowest number of votes, only before Eritrea, which got 144 votes.

None of the 18 candidates was contested in the vote.

The 18 states that were elected on Thursday are: Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Somalia (for the African group); India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (for the Asia-Pacific group); Lithuania, Montenegro (for Eastern Europe); Argentina, Honduras, Paraguay (for Latin America and the Caribbean); Finland, Luxembourg, the United States (for Western Europe and other states).

Of the 18 states, Cameroon, Eritrea, Somalia, India and Argentina were elected for a consecutive second term.

Except for the five states that were re-elected, 13 states will leave the Human Rights Council by year-end: Burkina Faso, Togo (for Africa); Bahrain, Bangladesh, Fiji, the Philippines (for the Asia-Pacific); Bulgaria, the Czech Republic (for Eastern Europe); Bahamas, Uruguay (for Latin America and the

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