U.S. quits UNHRC, 'We did not take this decision lightly'

Arturo Kim
June 20, 2018

The Bush administration resisted joining the HRC precisely because there were doubts it would be a great improvement over its embarrassing predecessor organization, but the Obama administration chose to join in order to "make it a more effective body to promote and protect human rights", as then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said in 2009.

Formed in 2006, the council has been criticised for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

She denounced the council as a "forum for politics, hypocrisy and evasion" and accused member countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi and Saudi Arabia of failing to fulfill their duties to "uphold the highest standards" of human rights, while emphasizing what she said was the council's anti-Israel bias.

United Nations rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said on Monday "the thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable".

"When a so-called Human Rights Council can not bring itself to address the massive abuses in Venezuela and Iran, and it welcomes the Democratic Republic of Congo as a new member, the council ceases to be worthy of its name", said Haley.

"For too long the human rights council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias".

"The Trump administration's withdrawal is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy - defending Israeli abuses from criticism takes precedence above all else", Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said in a statement.

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The council meets three times a year to examine human rights violations worldwide.

But Haley said that if the council does reform, the United States "would be happy to rejoin".

Haley repeatedly voted against United Nations measures that were critical of Israel, and she has rebuked the council for what she called a "chronic anti-Israel bias". "The UN Human Rights Council is undermined by politicisation and the singling out of Israel in its standing agenda and the United Kingdom has shown the way to giving this potentially crucial body much greater weight and standing".

Although numerous officials have said repeatedly that "America First does not mean America Alone", the administration has retreated from multiple multilateral accords and consensuses since it took office. "Human Rights" Council is an oxymoron that does not deserve our respect or support.

Among reforms the United States had pushed for was to make it easier to kick out member states with egregious rights records.

The U.S. withdrawal from the council isn't exactly a surprise. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the USA decision. Now a two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly is needed to suspend a member state.

The United Stated refused to join the body when it was created in 2006, when George W. Bush was in the White House and his ambassador to the UN was John Bolton, Trump's current hawkish and UN-skeptic national security advisor.

Then under President Barack Obama the United States was elected to the body for a maximum two consecutive terms on the council by the UN General Assembly. After a year off, it was re-elected in 2016.

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