The United States is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Tuesday, branding the global body a “cesspool of political bias.”
“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,” she said at a press conference announcing the move.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said she had traveled to the council’s headquarters in Geneva a year ago to call for reforms, to no avail.
“Regrettably it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley told reporters at the state department. “Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council.”
She added: “The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny and the council continues politicising and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks.”
“For too long the human rights council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias.”
Haley said that if the council reforms, the United States “would be happy to rejoin,” The Guardian reports.
Although the US could have remained a non-voting observer on the council, a US 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.
US officials said earlier Tuesday that the administration had concluded that its efforts to promote reform on the council had failed, and that withdrawal was the only step it could take to demonstrate its seriousness. It was not immediately clear if the US would remain a non-voting observer on the council.
US 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.”
Haley and Pompeo stressed the decision had been made after a long year of efforts to shame the council into reform and to remove member states that themselves commit abuses.
The Geneva-based body was established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights worldwide, but its pronouncements and reports have often infuriated the US — in particular, the council’s relentless focus on Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.
But, as Haley stressed, Washington also believes it comes up short on criticizing even flagrant abuses by US opponents like Venezuela and Cuba.
“Countries have colluded with each other to undermine the current method of selecting members,” Pompeo said. “And the council’s continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” he said.
“Since its creation, the council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than against the rest of the world combined,” he noted.
Haley, who issued a warning a year ago that Washington would make good on its threat to leave the council if reforms were not carried through, used even starker language.
“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,” she said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the US decision, adding: “The UN’s human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.”
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