WASHINGTON — The Trump administration withdrew from the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council because of its bias against Israel.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, jointly announced the pullout on Tuesday evening.
“The Human Rights Council is an exercise in shameless hypocrisy,” Pompeo said in a press appearance at the state Department.
Haley said the decision came after her “good faith” effort to reform the body was obstructed by others.
In addition to the body’s disproportionate focus on Israel, successive U.S. administrations have objected to the presence of human rights abusers on the council.
Haley, warning earlier this month of the likelihood of a U.S. withdrawal, said the presence of noted abusers was a sticking point.
“Being a member of this council is a privilege, and no country who is a human rights violator should be allowed a seat at the table,” she said.
Current members of the council noted for their oppressive policies include Saudi Arabia, China and Venezuela.
The George W. Bush administration refused to join the council when it was established in 2006 as a successor to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations at the time, pushed for the replacement body in part to address similar concerns about the commission, but the council soon replicated the pattern of emphasizing criticism of Israel and allowing abusers to join. The U.N. General Assembly selects countries to serve three-year terms on the Human Rights Council.
The Obama administration joined the council, arguing that its presence was a more effective means of defending Israel on the council and of addressing human rights abuses elsewhere.
Some pro-Israel groups have pressed for a U.S. departure from the council because of its excesses. Others have criticized the council but quietly supported a continued U.S. presence to maintain U.S. influence as a counter to the anti-Israel agenda.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center welcomed the departure.
“We applaud Ambassador Haley’s move and urge other democracies should follow the U.S. lead and leave the UNHRC as well,” it said in a statement.
At least two Jewish Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives spoke out against the departure while noting the council’s bias.
“The United Nations Human Rights Council ignores some of the most egregious human rights abuses in the world, and its membership includes notorious human rights violators,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the senior Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee. “The council also wrongly and obsessively focuses on our ally Israel. Unfortunately, none of that will change if we are not at the table to lead the reform efforts.”
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the top Democratic appropriator in the House, said the departure was another example of President Donald Trump’s isolationism.
“By leaving UNHRC, we will not improve its behavior, rather the U.S. will lose its ability to influence the foreign body’s agenda and retreat from its role as a world leader on human rights,” Lowey said in a statement. PJC