US Leaves UN Human Rights Council

On Tuesday, the United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council, according to an announcement made by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments,” she said. “On the contrary. 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.”

The move is indeed a political protest, one made to further secure the loyalty of Israel, a chronic human rights violator by most accounts. In addition to the perceived bias against Israel, Haley cited the council’s alleged hypocrisy among varying governments.

“When we made it clear we would strongly pursue council reform, these countries came out of the woodwork to oppose it,” she said. “Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt all attempted to undermine our reform efforts this past year.”

According to the Washington Post, the United States could have stayed on the Council as a nonvoting observer. Indeed, its decision to fully withdraw appears to be a rebuke of the council, in that it withdraws the US’s ability to take a front seat in important global issues.

Pompeo was just as critical of the council in the announcement. He said it is an “exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored, and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself.”

“The only thing worse than a council that does almost nothing to protect human rights is a council that covers for human rights abuses, and is therefore an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change,” he said.

The irony of the announcement — coming, as it were, in the wake of revelations that the United States government systematically imprisoned migrant children and traumatically separated them from their families, in some cases falsely telling parents their children were merely taken away from them to be bathed — was lost on Pompeo and Haley.

Indeed, the announcement comes one day after Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, slammed the US for its zero-tolerance policy at the US-Mexico border that has been separating migrant children from their parents.

“The only thing worse than a council that does almost nothing to protect human rights is a council that covers for human rights abuses, and is therefore an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change,” he said.

The US has been part of the council in its current form since 2009.

“Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement at the time of the announcement. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the UN human rights system. . . . We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”