Tillerson shuns all but conservative website on Asia tour

In a letter to eight rights groups, Tillerson said the United States administration continues to "evaluate the effectiveness of the UN Human Rights Council" which is now meeting in Geneva.

"We expect that the diplomatic press corps will be afforded access to Secretary Tillerson equal to that given to the reporter on the plane", the correspondents association said in its statement. But its members include many countries with poor rights records including Burundi, Congo, Cuba, Venezuela, China and Saudi Arabia.

The nine groups, which include the AJC-affiliated Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human rights, wrote a letter last month to Tillerson arguing that the US can better protect Israel from disproportionate criticism if it remains a member, according to Foreign Policy.

The Trump administration is threatening to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing among other things the intergovernmental body's "biased agenda against Israel".

"Disengagement from the council would leave a vacuum", their letter said, "and states that do not share our nation's interests and values would fill it, resulting in less condemnation of the world's worst human rights abusers, more action directed against Israel, and more repressive governments gaining membership in the council".

According to Politico, a former State Department official briefed on the discussions noted that while Israel may be a key point of concern, there are other general doubts about the Council regarding its efficacy and its roster of members.

The former U.S. administration of Barack Obama played a key role in some of the council's major successes such as ground-breaking inquiries of atrocities in Syria and North Korea.

The United States served two consecutive terms on the Human Rights Council from 2009-2015, took a mandatory year off, and was elected to a three-year term in October 2016. "It's important that every country participate in its work".

The letter, which specifically mentions Macedonia and Albania, asks Tillerson to investigate funds associated with promoting democracy and governance, and to review programs, accounts and entities involved in those activities.

"North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or its neighbours", he said, suggesting that criticism was aimed at the regime in Pyongyang.

The secretary of state's letter was first reported by Foreign Policy magazine.

This excuse rang hollow to members of the press corps.

"It was made a decision to take a journalist who was not, or from an outlet that doesn't normally travel with the secretary, as part of an effort to include a broader representation of the U.S. media", added Toner, who also served under former president Barack Obama.

  • Leroy Wright