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June 19, 2018 6:39 pm

‘A Body Unworthy of the Name:’ Haley and Pompeo Confirm US Departure From UN Human Rights Council

avatar by Ben Cohen

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. Photo: Reuters / Toya Sarno Jordan.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, denounced the global organization’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as a “hypocritical body unworthy of its name” as she confirmed on Tuesday that the United States would no longer serve as one of its members.

“This is not a retreat from human rights commitments,” Haley told journalists at the State Department in Washington, DC.  The US could not, however, “remain in a hypocritical organization that makes a mockery of human rights,” she said.

Haley had warned that the US was prepared to leave the UNHRC one year ago, declaring on a visit to Israel in June 2017 that “the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time, and we’re not going to let that happen anymore.” A few months later, in October 2017, the US cited anti-Israel bias as a primary reason for its withdrawal from the UN’s cultural and education agency, UNESCO — a decision that is scheduled to take effect in November.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Haley offered her analysis of why US efforts to end the disproportionate focus on Israel had failed alongside its plans for broader reform of the UNHRC. She highlighted the continuing presence on the UNHRC of authoritarian regimes with abysmal human rights records, along with the reluctance of other democracies to make their private misgivings about the council public.

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“Unfree countries don’t want the council to be effective — a credible Human Rights Council poses a threat to them and so they oppose it,” Haley said. She cited Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt specifically as countries that “all attempted to undermine our reform efforts this past year.”

Haley also criticized a separate set of countries who shared American concerns about the UNHRC, she said, but were willing to express them only in private. “We gave them opportunity after opportunity, but they would not take a stand unless it was behind closed doors,” she remarked. “No other country has had the courage to join our fight.”

Labeling the UNHRC a “cesspool of political bias,” Haley lambasted the council for ignoring grievous human rights abuses by its own members, among them Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter’s election to the council was approved “even as mass graves were being discovered” on its territory, she said. Haley then pointed to the contrast between the UNHRC’s reluctance to condemn regimes like North Korea, Iran and Syria and the presence of a permanent UNHRC agenda item — Item 7 — that is dedicated to alleged Israeli human rights violations.

Speaking prior to Haley, whom he praised as the “right leader” for US efforts at the UN, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the UNHRC for including some of the world’s “worst human rights abusers” among its members.

“Its well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” Pompeo continued. “There are more resolutions [at the UNHRC] against Israel than against the rest of the world combined.”

US Jewish organizations and the Israeli government welcomed the US announcement that its tenure on the council was now at an end. “The United States has proven, yet again, its commitment to truth and justice and their unwillingness to allow the blind hatred of Israel in international institutions to stand unchallenged,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said in a statement.

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