Published: Wed, June 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

United States 'to announce withdrawal from UN human rights council'

United States 'to announce withdrawal from UN human rights council'

The decision, should it come to pass, would occur after months of talks between the USA and other member countries, with the US critical of agenda items singling out Israel for condemnation over its treatment of Palestinians. And it would leave the council without the United States playing a key role in promoting human rights around the world. The members she said the administration no longer considers worthy of upholding human rights include Venezuela, Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia. From the start of the Trump Administration Haley has repeatedly warned the UNHRC that it must halt its anti-Israel bias and institute reform measures.

The U.S., under former President George W. Bush, initially boycotted the council - established in 2006 - but rejoined in 2009 under former President Obama.

Several non-government organizations have sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decrying the expected decision.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley says the Human Rights Council has treated Israel worse than Iran, Syria and even North Korea over the conflict with the Palestinians. They asked not to be identified discussing a decision that hadn't yet been made public.

In a speech to the council previous year, Haley delivered something amounting to an ultimatum: Either the Human Rights Council can "address its chronic anti-Israel bias" and clean up its roster of member countries - which includes Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia and other countries with dubious human rights records of their own - or the council can bid the US farewell.

During the council's latest session, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, launched an attack on the Trump administration's policy of separating families trying to cross the southwest border illegally, calling the practice "unconscionable".

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Meanwhile the campaign group Human Rights Watch criticised President Trump's human rights policy as "one-dimensional".

Since Jan. 2017, it has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the United Nations educational and cultural organization and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. But U.N. officials said no member has withdrawn.

United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad called the policy "unconscionable".

A key question will be where a USA pullout would leave Israel if its biggest and most powerful defender abandons its voting rights or drops out of the council altogether. If the reports are accurate, it would mark the first time one of the member nations, of which there are now 47, volunteered to disassociate. No other country has such a mandate leveled against it. In that situation, the USA would be able to speak out on rights abuses, but not to vote.

"All Trump seems to care about is defending Israel", he said, adding that it would be up to the remaining members to ensure that the council addresses serious abuses. "What is clear, is that the secretary-general is a strong believer in the human rights architecture of the United Nations and the active participation of all member states in that architecture".

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