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

US to withdraw from UN rights council: UN officials

US to withdraw from UN rights council: UN officials

Haley is President Donald Trump's envoy to the United Nations.

The Bush administration resisted joining the HRC precisely because there were doubts it would be a great improvement over its embarrassing predecessor organization, but the Obama administration made a decision to join in order to "make it a more effective body to promote and protect human rights", as then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said in 2009.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley plan to announce the withdrawal at the State Department in Washington at 5 p.m., the people said.

The UK has joined the U.S. in condemning an alleged anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, pledging to vote against issues on Palestine brought by the Human Rights Council.

"Unless things change we shall move next year to vote against all resolutions introduced under Agenda Item 7", said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday. While it has its shortcomings - including the participation of persistent rights violators such as China, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela - the council plays a vital role in addressing serious rights abuses around the world.

Speaking prior to Haley, whom he praised as the "right leader" for U.S. efforts at the UN, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the UNHRC for including some of the world's "worst human rights abusers" among its members.

Haley is announcing the withdrawal at the State Department alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The decision was reportedly based on the Council's bias against Israel and its extension of membership to notorious human rights abusers.

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Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under "Item 7" on the agenda.

Haley has been the driving force behind withdrawing from the human rights body, which would be unprecedented in the 12-year history of the council. At the time, Haley echoed the White House, saying that Hamas is to blame for the deaths and that "No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has".

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.

But Tuesday's announcement also comes just a day after the United Nations human rights chief denounced the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Under Obama, the United States was elected to the body for a maximum two consecutive terms. That's a nine-day narrative, though; the insistence of the UN in having the worst of the world's human-rights abusers sit in judgment on others is an ongoing stain on the United Nations. A US 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.

"The US's absence will only compound the council's weaknesses", they wrote. After a year off, Washington was re-elected in 2016 for its current third term.

The decision, should it come to pass, would occur after months of talks between the US and other member countries, with the USA critical of agenda items singling out Israel for condemnation over its treatment of Palestinians.

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