Tillerson threatens to withdraw US from UN Human Rights Council

The Bush administration declined to join the Human Rights Council when it was first founded in 2006, but the Obama administration reversed course in 2009.

March 15, 2017 17:18
1 minute read.
Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is reviewing membership in the UN Human Rights Council, and “considerable reform” within the organization would be necessary for the US to remain, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

In a letter addressed to organizations lobbying for continued US membership, obtained first by Foreign Policy magazine, Tillerson said the State Department would “continue to evaluate the effectiveness” of the body and its fixation on the State of Israel.

“We may not share a common view on this, given the makeup of the membership,” Tillerson wrote. “While it may be the only such organization devoted to human rights, the Human Rights Council requires considerable reform in order for us to continue to participate.”

In a briefing with reporters, State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner acknowledged the secretary had sent the letter.

“Our future engagements with the council will consider the council’s actions, with an eye toward reform,” Toner said.
Erin Barclay says US seeks end to UN human rights council's 'obsession' with Israel on March 1, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)

The Trump administration was “not predicting we’re going to walk away from the council,” he added, but simply looking at ways to hold the body “accountable” for a recent pattern of behavior that is contrary to its mission.

The Bush administration declined to join the Human Rights Council when it replaced the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2006, but the Obama administration reversed course in 2009, arguing that membership would provide the US with more leverage to reform the organization, from within.

State Department officials – including Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley – say their goal is to fix the organization and its “bias” against the Jewish state. The Human Rights Council and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are the two organizations are under the most intense scrutiny by Trump administration officials over their treatment of Israel.

Meeting with Tillerson last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman suggested the US pull its membership. He accused the council of “distorting reality” in an effort to hurt Israel, according to the Defense Ministry, and noted that 60% of all decisions made by the body are Israel-related.

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