Trump administration pulls US out of UN human rights council

Mainichi Japan, June 20, 2018

United States announced Tuesday it was leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights
Council, with Ambassador Nikki Haley calling it “an organization that is
not worthy of its name.” It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump
administration from an international institution.
U. S.
Ambassador to the United Nations
Nikki Haley (AP)
(AP) – Haley, Trump’s envoy to the U.N., said 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 the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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.
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.”
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.
it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley said.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: “All Trump
seems to care about is defending Israel.”
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
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 changes.
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.
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.
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 Cambodia.
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.
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 row.
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.