After threatening the Human
Rights Wrongs Council last year that they would leave the institution if its corruption and anti-Israel bias was not fixed, the US this week announced its departure.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley explained the multiple reasons:
The United States is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Tuesday, branding the global body a “cesspool of political bias.”
“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,” she said at a press conference announcing the move.
The council, she added, has a “chronic bias against Israel.”
The Geneva-based body was established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights worldwide, but its pronouncements and reports have often infuriated the US — in particular, the council’s relentless focus on Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.
But, as Haley stressed, Washington also believes it comes up short on criticizing even flagrant abuses by US opponents like Venezuela and Cuba.
“Countries have colluded with each other to undermine the current method of selecting members,” Pompeo said. “And the council’s continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” he said.
Haley had listed several conditions for the US remaining in the council, including the need to abolish Agenda Item 7 (“the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”), which since its adoption in 2007 has singled out Israel for perpetual censure, a measure that no other country faces at the UN body.
A full pullout by the US would leave the council without one of its traditional defenders of human rights. In recent months, the United States has participated in attempts to pinpoint rights violations in places like South Sudan, Congo and Cambodia.
Opposition to the decision from human rights advocates was swift. A group of 12 organizations including Save the Children, Freedom House and the United Nations Association – USA said there were “legitimate concerns” about the council’s shortcomings but that none of them warranted a US exit.
“This decision is counterproductive to American national security and foreign policy interests and will make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
Added Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: “All Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”
Even the ever even-handed Britain condemned the HRC for its malicious targeting of Israel with the permanent Agenda Item 7:
Of course it would have been even better if Britain had voted against these agenda items already now. Why wait another year? Nothing is going to change, that’s for sure! But I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor remarked that the US’s departure from the UNHRC demonstrates not only its own strength, but Europe’s weakness:
The US decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council speaks volumes not just about America’s strength, but also about European Countries’ weakness. While the US took a leadership position, Europe was unwilling, unable and unfit to make the necessary changes to the council, and chose to follow the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest human rights violators, such as Qatar, Afghanistan and Venezuela.
The question that we should all ask ourselves is not why did the US leave the council, but rather why are European countries staying there.
As for those “legitimate concerns” which nevertheless “do not warrant a US exit”, here is UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer listing multiple extremely valid reasons:
The only mystery remaining in this issue is why Israel still belongs to the UNHRC. We should have walked out the moment permanent Agenda Item no. 7 was instituted. And its’ not as if hundreds of reasons were not provided by the UN itself almost every day with its incessant anti-Israel resolutions.
Israel may now follow suit and leave. Again… why “may’? Why not “definitely”? We accuse Europe of not having the courage of its convictions. Are we any better?
Israeli diplomats debated the pros and cons of leaving:
Many Israeli politicians rejoiced at Tuesday’s announcement of the US withdrawal from what centrist MK Yair Lapid dubbed the “Council for Terrorists’ Rights.” Professional diplomats in Jerusalem, however, pointed out the symbolic move could harm Israel in the long run.
Foreign Ministry officials told Channel 10 that America’s absence would make it much more difficult to block anti-Israel initiatives at the Council.
In the past, they argued, the US, while alone in defending Israel, could at least exert some influence, for example with regards to the election of a new high commissioner for human rights or the publication of a blacklist of Israeli companies operating in the West Bank.
Just as Israeli diplomats weren’t very happy about the US and Israel quitting UNESCO — despite their anger over many anti-Israel resolutions passed there — they would not necessarily rejoice over Netanyahu cutting ties with the Human Rights Council, either.
The argument is the same: It is not the UN framework that is responsible for anti-Israel resolutions but the member states, and countries such as Venezuela or Qatar, which will continue to guarantee that Israel gets no fair shake, with the US or without.
Inherently biased organizations should not be legitimized by US membership, proponents of the US quitting UNESCO and the Human Rights Council say.
But as long as the rest of the civilized world clings to these organizations — even if it demands reforms, as the UK did — they will not only continue to exist but also enjoy a great deal of international legitimacy, even without the US administration.
If anything, unilaterally withdrawals leave the playing field to your enemies and bereave you of the opportunity to influence from within, argued UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer, himself a perennial critic of the Human Rights Council.
“Sadly, we know that US absence won’t stop the Council from creating prejudiced commissions of inquiry, whose reports get sent to The Hague, or from adopting biased resolutions that are quoted worldwide, affecting the hearts and minds of millions worldwide,” he told The Times of Israel.
Why not send famed law professor and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz to be Washington’s new ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Neuer suggested.
“But because this body is not going away — and we know that from the US withdrawal from 2006 to 2009 — what we need is for the US to appoint someone like Nikki Haley to take the floor and speak truth to power.”
Even Hillel Neuer of UN Watch does not think it’s a good move from the US to leave the HRC. He thinks it is better to have a Nikki Haley type at the HRC to speak truth to power, just like she does at the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. Listen to his interview on BBC Scotland radio yesterday:
Food for thought. Though I still think the body is incorrigible. It was already disbanded and reconstituted once. Nothing will rescue it until corrupt dictatorships are ejected from the UN altogether. It will never happen.