US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced Tuesday the United States’ withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, citing the group’s bias towards Israel and its failure to hold human rights abusers accountable. Last year, she threatened to pull out if the group did not address its “chronic bias” against Israel.
“For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” said Haley, citing its hypocritical inclusion of human rights abusers like China, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia.
“Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the Council,” added Haley. “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.”
The Human Rights Council was formed in 2006 as a branch of the UN responsible for upholding human rights. There are 47 member states, with a specific number of seats allocated for each region of the globe. Members are elected by the UN’s General Assembly to serve three-year terms and cannot serve more than two terms in a row.
“When a so-called Human Rights Council cannot 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. “Such a council, in fact, damages the cause of human rights.”
The US has given the Council “opportunity after opportunity” to make changes. “Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” said Haley, adding that that the US “would be happy to rejoin” if the Council undergoes reform.
The decision to withdraw, which the Trump Administration has threatened for months, comes one day after UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described the separation of children from parents at the US-Mexico border as “unconscionable.”
The withdrawal was immediately condemned by human rights groups, who insist the decision reflects President Trump’s lack of concern for human rights.
“Once again President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the US claims to uphold,” argues Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, Salil Shetty. “While the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains as an important force for accountability and justice.”
The Council in recent months has not only criticized Trump’s immigration policies and his decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but also his tax overhaul – which councilmember Philip Alston insists has “overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
Alston’s comment is part of a report on Trump’s economic policies that he will submit to the Council later this week.
The decision to withdraw from the UNHRC reflects President Trump’s blatant refusal to belong to any international group or trade deal that is not in line with his goals.
Since taking office, Trump has overseen US withdrawal from the Paris Climate accord, the UN educational and cultural organization, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the nuclear deal with Iran.
Other controversial moves include his steel and aluminum tariffs on allies, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the forced renegotiation of NAFTA.