US officially withdraws from UN Human Rights Council

The announcement comes on the heels of the U.N. human rights chief calling the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families "unconscionable."

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Image credit: Emily Farr, LLR Director/Flickr

The United States announced on Tuesday that it is officially leaving the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission.

The official announcement comes after more than a year of complaints and warnings from the Trump administration. The decision was announced via joint statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

Haley then spoke to the media, “I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments. 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.”

Although the Trump administration has been outspoke on what they call the “bias” and “hypocrisy” of the council, especially in regards to Israel, the timing of the decision is interesting, as it comes only one day about the U.N. human rights chief called the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families “unconscionable.”

“We have no doubt there was once a noble vision for this council, but we need to be honest, the Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights,” Pompeo said.

“For too long the human rights council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias. Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley added.

Last year, Haley announced that the United States was considering withdrawing from the council unless changes were made in relation to the “biased” stance against Israel.

Both Pompeo and Haley repeated this sentiment during their announcement, saying that the council has repeatedly singled out Israel.

The United States is the first every country to voluntarily leave the U.N. rights council. Libya was kicked off. WHen the council was first established in 2006, the George W. Bush administration withheld its membership over similar concerns to Haley’s. It was the Obama administration that sought and received membership, in order to “work from within” and “make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.”

Many politicians echoed the Obama administration’s reasons for joining the council when speaking out against the decision. Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel stated, “The UN Human Rights Council has always been a problem. Instead of focusing on real human-rights issues, the council has used its time and resources to bully Israel and question Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. But the way to deal with this challenge is to remain engaged and work with partners to push for change.”

Pompeo continues to defend the situation though, stating, “The Human Rights Council has become 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,” he said Tuesday. “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.”

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