U.N. warns that U.S. strengthens abusive regimes with UNHRC withdrawal

Netanyahu called the Human Rights Council a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland June 18, 2018. (photo credit: DENIS BALIBOUSE / REUTERS)
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland June 18, 2018.
The international community warned that the US withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council over its biased treatment of the Jewish state and immoral actions had strengthened abusive regimes.
“It is bad news for everyone who cares about human rights,” Slovenian President Borut Pahor said on the UNHRC floor in Geneva on Wednesday.
He spoke one day after the United States became the first country in the UNHRC’s 12-year history to give up its seat on the 47-member council.
“The Human Rights Council without the US will be weaker, but endeavors of the United States in protecting and promoting human rights throughout the world will be weaker as well,” Pahor said.
On Wednesday the US submitted its resignation in writing to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York and said that it plans to boycott UNHRC meetings.
“The United States will not participate further in the June HRC sessions or further sessions and will not serve out the remainder of its term,” the US said.
UNHRC president Vojislav Suc told the UNHRC in Geneva that the UN General Assembly would now hold an election in the western group for a replacement member.
He lauded the council’s work in combating human rights crimes.
“We should never lose sight of the fact that the Human Rights Council is the only intergovernmental body responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide, with the active participation of civil society,” Suc said.
But in Jerusalem Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the move.
“For years, the UNHRC has proven to be a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights,” Netanyahu tweeted.
“The US decision to leave this prejudiced body is an unequivocal statement that enough is enough. Israel welcomes the American announcement,” Netanyahu said.
PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat charged that the “The Trump administration continues its efforts to promote international anarchy by withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, after having withdrawn from UNESCO and the Paris Agreement, among others.”
“Their choice has been to side with Israel’s colonization of Palestine, rather than the rule of international law and UN resolutions,” Erekat said.
But Israel and the United States have long held that the UNHRC has been held hostage to geopolitical interests. They have added that its obsessive focus on Israel hampers the UNHRC’s ability to address the most serious global abuses and human rights crimes.
The UNHRC was created in 2006 to replace the UN Human Rights Commission, which was plagued by similar problems.
Over the past 12 years, 24% of all UNHRC country-specific resolutions censured Israel and/or dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Former US president George Bush held that the UNHRC was problematic and refused to engage with it. The Obama administration rebuilt those ties and held a council seat, hoping to reform it from within.
On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN in New York Nikki Haley privately told Guterres that the US planed to withdraw from the council.
Then she publicly announced the move at a joint press appearance with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“The United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council,” Haley said.
“For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said.
“And then, of course, there is the matter of the chronic bias against Israel,” Haley said.
“Earlier this year, as it has in previous years, the Human Rights Council passed five resolutions against Israel – more than the number passed against North Korea, Iran and Syria combined.
“This disproportionate focus and unending hostility towards Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights,” Haley said.
She recounted a list of “good faith” efforts the US took to reform the council. The US met with more than 125 UN member states. Most of those countries agreed that the council needs dramatic systemic changes, but did not have the courage to battle to make that happen, Haley said.
Among the US’s failed initiatives was an attempt to prevent human rights abusers from gaining council membership, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haley said.
“Even as it was being elected to membership in the Human Rights Council, mass graves continued to be discovered in the Congo,” Haley said.
“Look at the council membership and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic human rights. These countries strongly resist any effort to expose their abusive practices. In fact, that’s why many of them run for a seat on the Human Rights Council in the first place: to protect themselves from scrutiny,” Haley said.
“Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt all attempted to undermine our reform efforts this past year,” Haley said.
“When a so-called Human Rights Council cannot bring itself to address the massive abuses in Venezuela and Iran, and it welcomes the Democratic Republic of Congo as a new member, the council ceases to be worthy of its name. Such a council, in fact, damages the cause of human rights,” Haley said.
“We will continue to strongly advocate for reform of the Human Rights Council. Should it become reformed, we would be happy to rejoin it,” Haley said.