US quits UN human rights body

Washington said the 47-nation council has shown 'chronic bias' against Israel

Photo: Photo: EPA Our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation, said Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.

The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations' top human rights body accusing it of “chronic bias” against Israel, in a move that was criticised by human rights groups and described as regrettable by foreign leaders. The decision to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council was announced on 19 June by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN. “We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights,” she said alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington.

The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations' top human rights body accusing it of “chronic bias” against Israel, in a move that was criticised by human rights groups and described as regrettable by foreign leaders. The decision to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council was announced on 19 June by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.

“We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights,” she said alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington.

The US announcement comes after the council voted last month to probe the killing of scores of Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip and accused Israel of excessive use of force. It came also a day after the council's commissioner decried the US' separation of children and parents at America's southwest border.

Minutes later, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, called the announcement by US President Donald Trump's administration “disappointing, if not really surprising”. The European Union said the move “risks undermining the role of the US as a champion and supporter of democracy on the world stage”. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called it “regrettable”. On the other hand, Israel, a major ally of the US, praised Washington's “courageous” move.

The UN Human Rights Council was created in 2006 and aims to protect human rights around the world. The US joined in 2009 under Barack Obama.

Haley acknowledged that the council will lose what she called its “last shred” of credibility with the US departure. But she said that was all the more reason to act. She said the move “is not a retreat from human rights commitments” and accused the council of being “a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias”.

“Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” said Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The council has focused heavily on Israel, rebuking it for its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Under Trump, the administration has shown favouritism towards Israel and rarely criticises any of its actions, such as its role in deadly violence in Gaza, which other countries condemn. The situation in Israel is a permanent item on the council agenda for its regular meetings. US diplomats have served as a counterweight in those debates.

The Trump administration's move also comes as it faces widespread criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border. On 18 June, Al-Hussein called on Washington to halt its child separation policy.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” said the top UN human rights official.

Washington's withdrawal is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

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