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Thursday, June 21, 2018

The US abandons the UN Human Rights Council

Por Nina

The United States has announced on Tuesday that it is leaving the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. It was a step that was anticipated and announced, as a threat, on several occasions since Donald Trump became president and is mostly driven by what the United States denounces as "unacceptable bias against Israel" in the body. But the time chosen to give it, with attention and global denunciation of the humanitarian crisis caused by the president's decision to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border, further underscores the prevailing philosophy of defiance that a president has installed in Washington. It has also abandoned the Paris Agreement to fight climate change, has broken the multinational agreement with Iran to stop the nuclear program and has fired the first shots in a global trade war with tariffs on the European Union, China and other countries.

"We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain part of a hypocritical and selfish organization that mocks human rights," said US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. In justifying her decision, Haley added that the organ suffers from a chronic partialization against Israel. The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, said in a statement that he "would have preferred" the United States to remain in the Council. The US was removed from the Human Rights Council for three years, after the Republican George Bush voted against its creation in 2006. The Democrat Barack Obama changed course and decided to join in 2009. Nikki Haley then demanded a reform to facilitate the expulsion of countries with a poor record in human rights. And although there are countries that like the United Kingdom share this same concern, they do not believe that abandoning it is the remedy.

"Our call to change has not been heard," Haley lamented. She explained that the withdrawal could have been decided immediately, but said she tried to seek support among countries that share their views. "But they did not have courage and things have gotten worse," she reiterated. She cited that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was elected as a member or that it did not rule on the situation in Venezuela or Iran. "It does not deserve this name," she riveted. The diplomat made the announcement at an event on Tuesday in Washington with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The Donald Trump government thus distances itself from the multilateralism of its predecessor, as it did with UNESCO, by disengaging itself from the Paris climate agreement, the trans-Pacific trade treaty or the nuclear agreement with Iran. John Bolton, current National Security Adviser, was ambassador to the UN when the US decided to vote against its creation. For his part, Pompeo, also present in this statement, applauded the figure of Haley as an ambassador to the UN and called the Council a "hypocritical" body. "We do not doubt that its creation was in good faith, but we have to be honest: The Human Rights Council of the UN is a poor defender of human rights," he said. However, Pompeo said that the Trump Executive "has no opposition to working with multilateral institutions," although he said that "it will not be an accomplice" of the Human Rights Council. "The United States leads the world in humanitarian assistance, it will not take lessons from hypocrites," Pompeo added.

This announcement came a day after the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the separation of hundreds of immigrant children from their parents in the southern border of the United States in recent months. The High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described as "inadmissible" the dissuasive policy of separating minors who cross the border with their parents. Haley warned two weeks ago that the United States would not allow the UN or any other organization to give it lessons on what her country has to do when it comes to managing and protecting its borders. The United States systematically votes in New York and Geneva against critical decisions with Israel. Recently it was the only member, along with Australia, which opposed in this body a resolution in which it was proposed to investigate the excessive use of force by the Israeli military during the protests in Gaza. It also vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for protection for the Palestinians.

The exit from the US will be consummated two years after Russia failed in its attempt to be re-elected to a post. Now they have a window of opportunity to claim the vacancy. The practical consequences are limited, because the decisions and their policies are not binding. But the abandonment implies that Israel loses its main ally in this body. A discussion on the situation in the Middle East is scheduled for next July 2. Kenneth Roth, executive director of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, went ahead of the official announcement by issuing a statement criticizing the US isolationist maneuver. He believes that the withdrawal is "a sad reflection" of the policy followed by the Administration of Donald Trump in the field of human rights, "for which he defends the abuses of Israel" against the criticism made by the rest of the international community.