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WATCH: US Leaves UN Human Rights Council Over ‘Chronic Bias Against Israel’

The United States announced Tuesday it was leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with Ambassador Nikki Haley calling it “a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.”

It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution.

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”, accusing it of a “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel.”

“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.

“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,” Haley said. “Such a council, in fact, damages the cause of human rights.”

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 illegal immigrant 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,” Haley said.

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 left-wing ‘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 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.

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 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.

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.


5 Responses

  1. I hope this pulling out, includes “Financial pull out of money” as well. Kudos to President Donald Trump & Ambassador Nikki Haley.

  2. Dumb and dumber. The US has always been seen as world leader in human rights. Now, with this, and the new zero-tolerance policy of family separations at the Mexican border, no one will feel the need to take us seriously. The BDS people are cheering, because their chances of winning just went up.

    Read the foreign press. The rest of the world is just getting it together to go on without the US in a leadership role. We’ll still be dealt with because our markets and are military are so big, but no one is going to take us seriously as a moral and and ideological force. We’ve started a trade war we can’t win. We’ve abandoned our allies and chummed up with dictators, and to be honest, our human rights record here at home hasn’t been spotless either. The 21st century isn’t American. Whether it will turn out to have China as the leader or just be a nineteenth-style century of multiple power bases isn’t clear yet.

    I like Ms. Haley, but she blew it this time.

  3. There is no real indication that the U.S. is no longer leading the world-wide efforts to promote democracy and the integration of multiple religious, ethnic, and cultural populations. What is clear, is that most of the world cannot or will not follow our lead, but still expects us to underwrite their corrupt agendas for their self preservation. The naivete of American liberals to create a better world has been exploited and has compromised our effectiveness at supporting change. Most Americans don’t really understand how corrupt most countries are, and how their agenda’s are only self serving to their power elite. These failed governments all want political protection and their unhappy (but suppressed) populations are terrorized into compliance, until they can flee (with their families). Why isn’t Mexico and other prime suppliers of immigrants not building temporary settlement communities for people trying to qualify for immigration to the U.S.? Because nearly no other country wants to encourage their loss of upwardly mobile citizens, just their criminals, etc. We’ve got an extremely successful country, so how do we open franchises all over the world? I think the U.S. could start its own Democratic UN, and have much better criteria for admission and compliance, then we might see who is really on board. BTW: we can win this trade war, because we’ve got the expendable money that other nations don’t and they won’t let theirs out of their countries, except to invest in the U.S.

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