TrumpWatch, Day 516: US Leaves UN Human Rights Council

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, June 19, 2018

Trump Administration makes move planned for months


Developments on Day 515 of the Trump Administration:

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“A Cesspool of Political Bias”

The US quits the UN Human Rights Council, complaining that it is biased against Israel.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley also said the body failed to hold human rights abusers accountable, a day after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ziad Ra’ad al-Hussein, criticized the Trump Administration’s separation of children from undocumented immigrant parents and detention of the juveniles as “unconscionable” and “child abuse”.

Speaking at the State Department, Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims US calls for reform of the Council were unheard. Haley said:

Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council. 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….

For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.

The Council consists of 47 members chosen in elections by UN states. The US has long criticized the inclusion of countries such as Iran and Cuba.

Behind the headline membership, the Council’s staff carry out investigations of abuses such as the human rights situation in Iran and the possible commssion of war crimes in the Syrian conflict.

Vice President Mike Pence hammered home US criticism via Twitter:

Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, responded, “The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council. The UN’s Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.”

A dozen charitable and human rights activist groups wrote to Pompeo:

[We are] deeply disappointed with the Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the premier intergovernmental human rights body at the global level.

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.”

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, said: “Once again President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the US claims to uphold. While the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains an important force for accountability and justice.”

The US withdrawal follows other set-piece confrontations between the Trump Administration and the UN. Announcing the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Haley warned members that Washington would take account of those who did not provide support.

The Administration has also threatened to sharply cut the US financial contribution to UN agencies.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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