US Leaves UN Human Rights Council

Arturo Kim
June 21, 2018

"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", says Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch in NY.

The decision comes days after the United Nations criticized the Trump Administration for separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border in Texas.

The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations' top human rights body accusing it of "chronic bias" against Israel, in a move that was criticised by human rights groups and described as regrettable by foreign leaders.

The council is the successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights, which had all the same problems - which is why Washington quit it under President George W. Bush.

The irony of the announcement - coming, as it were, in the wake of revelations that the United States government systematically imprisoned migrant children and traumatically separated them from their families, in some cases falsely telling parents their children were merely taken away from them to be bathed - was lost on Pompeo and Haley.

"All delegations attach great importance to this body", said Chinese ambassador to the Geneva, Yu Jianhua.

The diplomat noted that Washington's decision had dealt a powerful blow to its reputation in terms of protecting human rights.

"The world's most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks".

"Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded", Haley said.

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Still, the U.S. joined the council only in 2009 under president Barack Obama and its term on the council was due to end next year, when it was to revert to observer status. US leaves UN Human Rights Council US pulls out of UN Human Rights Council US plans to withdraw from UN Human Rights Council: report MORE announced the USA would withdraw from the council, saying that the worldwide body was "not worthy of its name".

China, Britain and the European Union lamented on Wednesday Washington's decision to withdraw from the United Nations.

President Trump directed the US trade representative to prepare new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports Monday as the two nations moved closer to a trade war. 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. The U.S. announced its withdrawal from the council on Wednesday, citing among other things its alleged anti-Israel bias.

Earlier, deputy permanent representative Yu Jianhua of China - which has sporadically faced US criticism over its human rights record - said his delegation was "disappointed" about the USA pullout.

But for many nongovernmental human rights organizations - and indeed for many individual rights advocates who have learned over recent decades to rely on American backing - the United States pullout is short-sighted.

United Nations officials said the USA would be the first member to withdraw from the council. He says the council has "played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar, and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel". "A mere look around the world today demonstrates that the council has failed in its stated objectives".

He added that despite some shortcomings, the Human Rights Council "has done some very good work, highlighting human rights abuses around the world, scrutinising and bringing facts to light which enable us to holding these countries to account". Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow, pointed out that Trump could have withdrawn immediately after taking office but instead gave the council 18 months to make changes.

In their remarks, both Haley and Pompeo said the decision had been made after a long year of efforts to shame the council into reform.

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