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US Is Weighing If It Will Stay in the United Nations Human Rights Council

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The United States is considering abandoning its seat on the world’s only human rights council if its demands for change and reform are not met.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, is expected to indicate on Tuesday whether the US will withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council as she gives a speech to member nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Haley and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have both been critical of the council since they assumed their posts, pointing out how countries with a record of flagrant human rights abuses like Venezuela and Cuba continue to have seats on the council.

They also contend that the council focuses too heavily on Israel and its relationship to Palestine, and say that the body must adopt reforms in order to once again be a moral authority on human rights.

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“The council has been given a great responsibility,” Haley wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post published on Friday. “It has been charged with using the moral power of universal human rights to be the world’s advocate for the most vulnerable among us. The United Nations must reclaim the legitimacy of this organization,” she wrote.

The US has been considering leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council since earlier this year. In February, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the council would require “considerable reform” for the US to remain a member.

Haley will go to Geneva to  “outline the changes that must be made,” she wrote.

The UN Human Rights Council is a group of 47 United Nations member states who are responsible for improving and upholding human rights and freedoms around the world.

It is an important body for international diplomacy, Reuters notes.

The council is tasked with addressing violations of human rights and making recommendations to other UN agencies, like the United Nations Security Council. In 2006, the council grew out of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which was created in 1946 as the body of the United Nations to protect human rights freedoms. Member states are voted onto the council by the UN General Assembly.

Last year, Russia lost its seat on the council after a majority of UN member states voted against it because of its ties to the conflict in Syria.

This is not the first time the US has turned away from the council. In 2006, George W. Bush’s administration refused to join the council over the Israeli issue, arguing that the council unfairly focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict, with a bias against Israel, according to Foreign Policy.

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But in 2008, former President Barack Obama’s administration decided to join the council in the hopes of mitigating bias against Israel and making a difference on other important human rights issues, Foreign Policy said.

Earlier this year, nine humanitarian groups said in a letter to Tillerson that the US’s role on the UN Human Rights Council has helped broaden the council’s focus to other human rights abuses than the Israel-Palestine conflict.

American leadership in the Council over the last seven years has helped shift that dynamic,” the organizations wrote, according to Foreign Policy. “Since 2009, the Council has increasingly trained a spotlight on rogue regimes and terrorists, commissioning independent investigations that have exposed serious human rights abuses in North Korea, Iran, Syria, ISIS, and Boko Haram.”

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The final decision as to whether the US will stay or leave the council is not expected to come until the end of the month, according to Reuters.

Until then, some remain hopeful that the US will only issue a warning for reform.

Our understanding is that it is going to be a message of engagement and reform," John Fisher, Geneva director of the Human Rights Watch, US chapter, told Reuters.