By Prarthana Mitra
The United States pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday in protest of its frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, in yet another significant move that isolates them further from the world.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, confirmed the government’s official decision to withdraw the country from the world’s main human rights body. In her statement to the press, she condemned the organisation which allows human rights abusers to serve and be elected while politicising and scapegoating countries with positive human rights records.
This is the first time a member has voluntarily left the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The US joins Iran, North Korea and Eritrea as the only countries who refuse to participate in the Council’s meetings and deliberations.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) June 20, 2018
Here’s what happened
The US had expressed their intent to leave the Council a year ago, noting how the body allows some of the world’s most inhumane regimes to escape scrutiny. Dissatisfied with the progress on that front, the US finally made their mind, refusing to provide the UNHRC with any credibility, at the same time Russia applied for membership to the Council.
Calling it a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights”, the Trump administration further confirmed that the withdrawal, which comes after a year-long effort to reform the Council.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the Council’s condonation of the most offensive countries like China, Cuba and Venezuela, while “obsessively mistreating” those countries which uphold human rights, referring to the heavy sanctions and war resolutions against Israel, their main ally in the Middle East.
Stating that the anti-Israel bias among some of the members had reached a breaking point, Haley drew attention to the five resolutions passed against Israel this year, which is significantly more than the number passed against North Korea, Iran and Syria combined, she added.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel welcomed the decision, writing, “The U.S. decision to leave this prejudiced body is an unequivocal statement that enough is enough.”
The US decision to leave this prejudiced body is an unequivocal statement that enough is enough.
Israel welcomes the American announcement.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 19, 2018
Why you should care
The move comes at a time when the US is embroiled in a number of potential human rights abuse cases. Over the last week, there has been a massive support rallying for migrant children who were separated from their families by the border patrol and put in detention centres which have very little press access. On Monday, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, called for an immediate end to the practice, classifying it as an unconscionable “abuse on children.”
It also arrives in the midst of Trump’s shrinking alliances with neighbouring countries and international bodies like the European Union, and retraction from all agreements which he finds objectionable, like the G7 communique. His protectionist ideologies and increasing isolationism pose a direct threat to the country’s economic and foreign affairs.
It also betrays the US administration’s deep denial of its own history of human rights abuse in foreign lands over the decades. Their anti-immigration policies also contradict the fact that the country’s prosperity still rests on the shoulders of an open economy and a diverse labour force.
Defecting from these international organisations, forged to maintain diplomatic if not congenial relations between nations, will not bode well for the fabric of US economy or society. Democratic Senator and member of the Foreign Relations Committee Chris Coons told Fox News, “We need to show up, be constructive and work with our allies […] This decision weakens the United States’ influence on the Council and makes it harder for us to advance.”
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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