The Trump administration withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, making good on a pledge to leave a body it accused of hypocrisy and criticized as biased against Israel.
“For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Tuesday at the State Department in Washington. She said the decision was an affirmation of U.S. respect for human rights, a commitment that “does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights. ”
The 47-member council, created in 2006 and based in Geneva, began its latest session on Monday with a broadside against President Donald Trump’s immigration policy by the UN’s high commissioner for human rights. He called the policy of separating children from parents crossing the southern border illegally “unconscionable.”
The Trump administration is under intense criticism from business groups, human rights organizations and lawmakers from both parties over the recently imposed policy.
While that timing was jarring, the U.S. withdrawal had been in the works for some time. National Security Adviser John Bolton had also opposed the body’s creation when he was U.S. ambassador to the UN in 2006. Current Ambassador Haley warned a year ago that the U.S. would pull out if the council didn’t address what she saw as its bias toward Israel and the fact that many of its current members -- they include China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- have poor human rights records themselves.
Condemning the planned withdrawal from the UN group, Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the decision “sends a clear message that the Trump administration does not intend to lead the world when it comes to human rights.”
The council also has been a forum for criticism of Trump’s economic policies. In a report on the U.S. due to be submitted to the Human Rights Council this week, Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on poverty, said the president’s tax overhaul “overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
The report says that while the U.S. has long been the most unequal among developed nations, it’s getting worse under Trump. “The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest,” it said.
Even some critics of the human rights council have called for continuing to push for a revamping of the body rather than quitting it.
On the opening day of the council’s current session, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson criticized the body’s perennial agenda item dedicated to Israel and the Palestinian territories, calling it “damaging to the cause of peace.” Nonetheless, he said the U.K. wasn’t “blind to the value of this council.”
The council is scheduled to discuss Israel and the Palestinian territories on July 2, according to its agenda.
“The Trump administration’s withdrawal is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy -- defending Israeli abuses from criticism takes precedence above all else,” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said in a statement. “Other governments will have to redouble their efforts to ensure the council addresses the world’s most serious human rights problems.”
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