U.S. exits United Nations rights body

Bolton on leaving Human Rights Council US doesn’t need ‘higher judge’ of our performance

Greg Nash

The US' move is unprecedented in the 12-year history of the council, as no country has ever dropped out voluntarily.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced the decision to pull out of the council on Tuesday over what she said was chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform.

He said the European Union without the "moral force of the UK" would be weaker following Brexit, and expressed bewilderment over Donald Trump's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the Mexican border, which was reversed on Wednesday following a huge backlash.

Now the Trump administration has formally sent notification of its decision, the U.N. General Assembly will organize elections for a replacement to assume the USA term through 2019.

Polly Truscott, foreign affairs adviser for Amnesty UK, said it was feared that changes proposed by the USA in the general assembly vote would have been subjected to hostile amendments and encountered significant opposition, weakening rather than strengthening the council. She did not mention Saudi Arabia, which rights groups pushed to be suspended in 2016 over killings of civilians in the Yemen war.

"It's the right decision to defund the Human Rights Council".

China, Britain and the European Union lamented on Wednesday Washington's decision to withdraw from the United Nations.

In any event, the USA withdrawal from the Human Rights Council is the latest demonstration that human rights, in this administration's view, are not important enough to wage the fight needed to confront the real enemies of human rights around the world. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the US decision. "Essentially, all of the countries of Western Europe, all of the United States" allies joined in the United Nations action in relation to Israel". Washington also relocated its embassy to Jerusalem after recognising it as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of USA policy.

The council has 47 members that are elected for three-year terms.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, criticized the move.

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Opposition to the decision from human rights advocates was swift.

"Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded", Haley said.

Gowan continued, "The Trump administration has always seen the council as a potential target".

The council's goal is to globally protect human rights.

"While the UNHRC has a sad and troubling record of showing strong bias against Israel, US withdrawal will do nothing to address this issue", the J Street statement said.

Washington's withdrawal leaves the UNHRC in a predicament, because the U.S. has traditionally been the prime defender of human rights around the globe. "Going forward, we encourage you to play a constructive role on behalf of human rights, rather than the deconstructive one you played in this instance".

"By attacking and blaming NGOs for its own failure, the Trump administration is taking a page out of the book of some of the worst governments around the world", said Charbonneau. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was regrettable and that the council was the "best tool the worldwide community has to address impunity".

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".

He noted he voted against creating the council when he served as U.N. Ambassador during the George W. Bush administration. Still, the U.S. joined the council only in 2009 under president Barack Obama and its term on the council was due to end next year, when it was to revert to observer status.

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