Trump Administration to Announce US Withdrawal From UN Human Rights Council

GageSkidmore  Flickr

GageSkidmore Flickr

But Haley says that if the council does reform, the United States "would be happy to rejoin".

The U.S. Dept. of State on Tuesday is expected to announce it is withdrawing from the United Nation's Human Rights Council.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and USA envoy to the UN Nikki Haley announced the decision at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley threatened the pull out a year ago, arguing the UNHRC displays anti-Israel bias and ignores violations from other countries like Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi, and Saudi Arabia, which she described as "the worst human rights abusers".

The United States is midway through a three-year term on the council, whose objective is to denounce and investigate human rights abuses.

The council last month voted to investigate killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force.

"The US has been threatening to walk away from the Human Rights Council ever since President Trump came into office, so this decision comes as no surprise", said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

It's believed that, up until now, the USA had traded its continued presence in the council for an under the table agreement with the UNHRC that it would hold off on publication of its settlement black list which was due out at the end of past year.

The move comes one day after United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights condemned President Trump's zero-tolerance policy on migrants at the U.S. southern border, which has seen distraught children removed from their parents and put in detention centres.

"The Human Rights Council has always been the foe of those who truly care about human rights around the world", Danon said immediately after Haley spoke. It had an obsession with Israel to the exclusion of nearly all other issues, especially those involving the countries that formed the commission.

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"Trump's withdrawal is especially disturbing given his persistent praise for despots and dictators with abysmal human rights records, not to mention his administration's cruel mistreatment of immigrant families seeking asylum".

Bloomberg News notes the HRC began its latest session on Monday by discussing the USA media's new obsession, the "policy of separating children from parents crossing the southern border illegally", which High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein called "unconscionable".

Opposition to the decision from human rights advocates was swift.

The Jewish Leadership Council tweeted: "We welcome the Foreign Secretary's statement at the Human Rights Council that its permanent agenda item on Israel is "disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace".

The decision to step down from the council will be one more step in President Trump's "America First" policy, which has led the U.S.to remove itself from the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, and the United Nations cultural and educational agency, UNESCO.

Before the United States joined, half the country-specific votes condemned Israel.

A pullout could be largely symbolic: The United States' current term on the council ends next year, when it could revert to the observer status held by other countries that are not members.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon also welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement that the USA "has proven, yet again, its commitment to truth and justice and its unwillingness to allow the blind hatred of Israel in global institutions to stand unchallenged".

Human Rights Watch criticised the move, warning that Washington's absence at the top United Nations body would put the onus on other governments to address the world's most serious rights problems.

Under President Barack Obama the United States was elected for a maximum two consecutive terms on the council by the UN General Assembly. A USA departure would deprive Israel of its chief defender at a forum where Israel's human rights record comes up for discussion at every single meeting, a standing "Item 7" on the agenda.

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