Nikki Haley to address UNHRC Tuesday amid report US may pull out

By REUTERS
June 5, 2017 13:16

Nikki Haley, who holds cabinet rank in President Donald Trump's administration, said last week Washington would decide on whether to withdraw from the Council after its three-week session in Geneva.

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Nikki Haley

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley delivers remarks at the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria at the UN Headquarters, in New York, US, April 7, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)

United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is set to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday amid reports that her country may pull out of the body over its treatment of Israel.

“The United States is expected to signal on Tuesday that it might withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council unless reforms are ushered in including the removal of what it sees as an “anti-Israel bias,” Reuters reported on Monday.

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After addressing the opening day of the body’s 35th session, Haley will host a panel on “Human Rights and Democracy in Venezuela” and address the Graduate Institute in Geneva before heading to Israel.

She is expected to visit the Western Wall, just as US President Donald Trump did during his May trip.

In an opinion piece she published in The Washington Post, Haley noted that “last month, a US Senate subcommittee met to consider whether the United States should remain a part of the council... the question was whether the Human Rights Council actually supports human rights or is merely a showcase for dictatorships that use their membership to whitewash brutality.” She reissued a threat made by the Trump administration shortly after the January 20th inauguration in the same week that the US pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.

The United States is one of 47 nations to serve on the council, which meets three times a year.

It is considered unlikely that the US would leave the council during this session that ends on June 23. It is presumed the US would try to leverage its continued presence in the council with reforms, including the UNHRC’s treatment of Israel, particularly with regard to the body’s plans to create a blacklist of companies that do business with West Bank settlements. That list it not likely to be debated until the fall.

In her Washington Post opinion piece, Haley said, “The council must also end its practice of wrongly singling out Israel for criticism. When the council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel, a country with a strong human-rights record, and just seven resolutions against Iran – a country with an abysmal human rights record – you know something is seriously wrong.”

Eight groups, including Freedom House and the Jacob Blaustein Institute, wrote to Haley in May saying a withdrawal would be counterproductive since it could lead to the council “unfairly targeting Israel to an even greater degree.”

In the letter, seen by Reuters, the groups also said that during the period of the US boycott, the council’s performance suffered “both with respect to addressing the world’s worst violators and with respect to its anti-Israel bias.”

John Fisher, Geneva director of the US-based Human Rights Watch, did not appear to fear an immediate withdrawal.

“Our understanding is that it is going to be a message of engagement and reform,” Fisher told reporters.

In June, the UNHRC will hold a debate on alleged Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians under Agenda Item 7. The UNHRC is mandated to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at every session under its rules. There is no similar mandate against any other country.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will also be raised on June 12 by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Šimonović, who visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in September 2016. It was the first such visit in 11 years. Šimonović will issue separate reports on the status of Israeli and Palestinian women along with a general report for women in the rest of the globe.


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