The United States is leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, which Ambassador Nikki Haley called “an organization that is not worthy of its name.” It’s the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution.
Haley said Tuesday the U.S. had given the human rights body “opportunity after opportunity” to make changes. She lambasted the council for “its chronic bias against Israel” and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and Congo.
“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,” Haley said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley at the State Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a “noble vision.”
“But today we need to be honest,” Pompeo said. “The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights.”
The announcement came just a day after the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, denounced the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents. But Haley cited longstanding U.S. complaints that the 47-member council is biased against Israel. She had been threatening the pull-out since last year unless the council made changes advocated by the U.S.
“Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley said.
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Still, she suggested the decision need not be permanent, adding that if the council did adopt reforms, “we would be happy to rejoin it.” She said the withdrawal notwithstanding, the U.S. would continue to defend human rights at the United Nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office called the U.S. decision “courageous,” calling it “an unequivocal statement that enough is enough.”
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank close to the Trump administration, defended the move, calling the council “notably incurious about the human rights situations in some of the world’s most oppressive countries.” Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow, pointed out that Trump could have withdrawn immediately after taking office but instead gave the council 18 months to make changes.
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The United States’ current term on the council ends next year. Although the U.S. could have remained a non-voting observer on the council, a U.S. official said it was a “complete withdrawal” and that the United States was resigning its seat “effective immediately.” The official wasn’t authorized to comment publicly and insisted on anonymity.
There are 47 countries in the Human Rights Council, elected by the U.N.’s General Assembly with a specific number of seats allocated for each region of the globe. Members serve for three-year terms and can serve only two terms in a row.
The United States has opted to stay out of the Human Rights Council before: The George W. Bush administration opted against seeking membership when the council was created in 2006. The U.S. joined the body only in 2009 under President Barack Obama.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.