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US Leaving UN Human Rights Council 06/20 06:13
The United States is leaving the United Nations' Human Rights Council, which
Ambassador Nikki Haley called "an organization that is not worthy of its name."
It's the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States is leaving the United Nations' Human
Rights Council, which Ambassador Nikki Haley called "an organization that is
not worthy of its name." It's the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration
from an international institution.
Haley said Tuesday the U.S. had given the human rights body "opportunity
after opportunity" to make changes. She lambasted the council for "its chronic
bias against Israel" and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused
human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and Congo.
"We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part
of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human
rights," Haley said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley at the State
Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a "noble vision."
But today we need to be honest," Pompeo said. "The Human Rights Council is a
poor defender of human rights."
The announcement came just a day after the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid
Ra'ad al-Hussein, denounced the Trump administration for separating migrant
children from their parents. But Haley cited longstanding U.S. complaints that
the 47-member council is biased against Israel. She had been threatening the
pull-out since last year unless the council made changes advocated by the U.S.
"Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,"
Still, she suggested the decision need not be permanent, adding that if the
council did adopt reforms, "we would be happy to rejoin it." She said the
withdrawal notwithstanding, the U.S. would continue to defend human rights at
the United Nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called the U.S. decision
"courageous," calling it "an unequivocal statement that enough is enough."
The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back
from international agreements and forums under the president's "America First"
policy. 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.
Since January 2017, it has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate
accord, left the U.N. educational and cultural organization and pulled out of
the Iran nuclear deal. Other contentious moves have included slapping tariffs
on steel and aluminum against key trading partners, recognizing Jerusalem as
Israel's capital and moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Opposition to the decision from human rights advocates was swift. A group of
12 organizations including Save the Children, Freedom House and the United
Nations Association-USA said there were "legitimate concerns" about the
council's shortcomings but that none of them warranted a U.S. exit.
"This decision is counterproductive to American national security and
foreign policy interests and will make it more difficult to advance human
rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world," the organizations
said in a joint statement.
Added Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: "All Trump
seems to care about is defending Israel."
On Twitter, al-Hussein, the U.N. human rights chief, said it was
"Disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of #HumanRights
in today's world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back."
And the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank close to the Trump
administration, defended the move, calling the council "notably incurious about
the human rights situations in some of the world's most oppressive countries."
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
Haley has been the driving force behind withdrawing from the human rights
body, unprecedented in the 12-year history of the council. No country has ever
dropped out voluntarily. Libya was kicked out seven years ago.
The move could reinforce the perception that the Trump administration is
seeking to advance Israel's agenda on the world stage, just as it prepares to
unveil its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan despite Palestinian
outrage over the embassy relocation. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser,
Jared Kushner, is visiting the Middle East this week as the White House works
to lay the groundwork for unveiling the plan.
Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for
discussion at every council session, under "Item 7" on the agenda. Item 7 on
"Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories" has been part of the
council's regular business almost as long as it has existed.
The United States' current term on the council ends next year. Although the
U.S. could have remained a non-voting observer on the council, a U.S. official
said it was a "complete withdrawal" and that the United States was resigning
its seat "effective immediately." The official wasn't authorized to comment
publicly and insisted on anonymity.
That means the council will be left without one of its traditional defenders
of human rights. In recent months, the United States has participated in
attempts to pinpoint rights violations in places like South Sudan, Congo and
The U.S. pullout was bound to have ripple effects for at least two countries
at the council: China and Israel. The U.S., as at other U.N. organizations, is
Israel's biggest defender. At the rights council, the United States has
recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China --- whose
growing economic and diplomatic clout has chastened some other would-be
critics, rights advocates say.
The Chinese government expressed regret over Washington's decision to pull
out of the council. In Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the
council is "an important platform" for countries to discuss human rights and
that Beijing has been committed to supporting the group's work.
But the Chinese government is often accused by Western countries of human
rights violations and by rights groups of seeking to undermine the mechanisms
of the U.N. human rights council. In March, a Chinese diplomat repeatedly
interrupted a speech by a prominent Chinese dissident to block him from
addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, a failed attempt that bared China's
sensitivity on human rights.
The foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, dismissed the U.S. criticism
that the council is problematic because it includes China and other
authoritarian governments, saying that claim is "a total disregard of facts."
''Everyone without bias can see clearly China's great achievement and progress
in terms of human rights," Geng said.
There are 47 countries in the Human Rights Council, elected by the U.N.'s
General Assembly with a specific number of seats allocated for each region of
the globe. Members serve for three-year terms and can serve only two terms in a
The United States has opted to stay out of the Human Rights Council before:
The George W. Bush administration opted against seeking membership when the
council was created in 2006. The U.S. joined the body only in 2009 under
President Barack Obama.