US Withdraws From UN Human Rights Council
The US is the first serving member to voluntarily leave the council.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced the US’ withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
The decision to leave the international body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world, according to a US State Department official, was due in part to the administration's belief that the council “fails to address critical situations for political reasons — and undermines its own credibility," The Independent reports.
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Ambassador Haley said that the US had made clear a year ago that they would withdraw if they did not see progress within the council, which she has accused of failing to hold rights abusers to account and bias against Israel, a US ally.
"For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said in a speech at the State Department. "The world's most inhumane regimes continue to escape its scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in its ranks."
Haley pointed to the massive abuses of rights in Venezuela, Iran, and the Democratic Republic of Congo — all of which are council members.
US withdrawal from the council has been widely criticized by rights groups and activists.
UN spokesman for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric responded to the announcement, saying, “The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council. The UN's Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.”
The US is the first serving member to voluntarily leave the UN Human Rights Council, bringing the total number of members on the council down to 46 countries. Since the creation of the council in 2006, Libya has been the only country to leave the council after being voted out for violence against protesters during the Arab Spring, which eventually led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
Haley’s withdrawal announcement comes just after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned the forcible separation of approximately 2,000 children from their families at the US-Mexico border on Monday.
“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” he said.
Bloomberg reported the withdrawal from the Human Rights Council was expected after the appointment of John Bolton as the National Security Adviser, who opposed the creation of the council as US Ambassador to the UN in 2006. And last year, Ambassador Haley accused the council of a “relentless, pathological campaign” against Israel — but also insisted that “America does not seek to leave the Human Rights Council.”
Since the council’s creation, seven of 28 investigations have revolved around Israel, including the 2010 Israeli attack on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance, which resulted in the killing of 10 Turkish activists. The council reported that the interception of the ships was illegal and accused Israel of violations of the Geneva Conventions.
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Update Wednesday, June 20, 11:30 a.m. ET: This post has been updated to reflect Haley's official announcement of the withdrawal.