UNITED NATIONS – The United States submitted Friday at the United Nations to unprecedented public scrutiny of its human rights record, drawing censure from friends and rivals for its policies on detention and the death penalty, but also praise from allies for its candor and willingness to accept constructive criticism.

A delegation of top officials, led by Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, gave diplomats at the U.N. Human Rights Council a detailed account of U.S. human rights shortcomings and the Obama administration’s efforts to redress them. It marked the first time the United States has subjected its rights record to examination before the Geneva-based council, as part of a procedure that requires all states to allow their counterparts to grade their conduct.

Several delegations camped out overnight to be first in line to criticize Washington, with the initial few speakers including Cuba, Iran and Venezuela.

The administration has engaged in an intensive effort, including holding town hall meetings with Muslims, American Indians, African-Americans and other minority groups, to assess the extent of domestic rights violations.

In August, it gave the U.N. rights council a 22-page report documenting U.S. abuses, including practices by federal and local police and corrections and immigration officials, and defending President Obama’s counter-terrorism policies. Friday’s meeting provided the first opportunity for states to comment on the report.

“Our progress has not been linear, but in the story of the United States, the arc of history has bent toward justice,” said Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. “As our report acknowledges, though we are proud of our achievements, we are not satisfied with the status quo.”

U.S. officials acknowledged the country’s long history of rights abuses. They noted that the administration’s top advisers, who include an American Jew, an African-American and an Asian-American, could not have risen so high in the U.S. government in the past.

“For the United States, our early years witnessed profound gaps between our ideals and practice, including slavery, the treatment of Native Americans and limited franchise,” Brimmer said. “Yet our own history has been one of progress, built on a strong foundation of fundamental freedoms of speech, association and religion, as foundation for building a ‘more perfect Union.’ “

Republican administrations have previously subjected their policies on immigration, detention treatment and other rights issues to scrutiny by the United Nations and other international bodies.

But the George W. Bush administration had refused to join the Human Rights Council, saying membership would lend legitimacy to a body that included many governments with appalling rights records. Obama reversed course, arguing that it would be better to improve the body from within than lecturing from the outside.

Bush’s former U.N. envoy, John Bolton, who led opposition to the council, said Friday’s action simply underscored the White House’s “naivete.”

“For the Obama administration, this is an exercise in self-flagellation, which they seem to enjoy,” Bolton said. “But it doesn’t prompt equivalent candor from the real rights abusers.”