U.S. expected to back away from U.N. Human Rights Council

Cheryl Sanders
June 19, 2018

"If it fails to change", Haley continued, "then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the council".

The move would follow through on last year's threat by the USA ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to leave if certain reforms were not adopted, including the expulsion of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela from the council.

Washington's pullout would be the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. In the first year, the council's first 11 resolutions targeting a specific nation were aimed at Israel. 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.

While previous U.S. administrations have criticized Item 7, President Donald Trump's government has raised the prospect of quitting the council unless it is scrapped.

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. The United States and Australia cast the only "no" votes.

The officials said the administration had concluded that its efforts to promote reform on the council had failed and that withdrawal was the only step it could take to demonstrate its seriousness.

A full pullout by the US would leave the council without one of its traditional defenders of human rights. "The HRC [Human Rights Council] consistently ignores the worst human rights abuses in the world proving it is not an honest broker". Members serve for three-year terms and can only serve two terms in a row.

The move comes as the Trump administration is under intense criticism from business groups, human rights organizations and lawmakers from both parties over its recently imposed decision to separate children from parents who enter the U.S. illegally.

Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States declined to join the council, questioning how different it would be than the commission. "The UN Human Rights Council is undermined by politicisation and the singling out of Israel in its standing agenda and the United Kingdom has shown the way to giving this potentially crucial body much greater weight and standing". In that situation, the USA would be able to speak out on rights abuses, but not to vote.

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