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US Withdraws from Human Rights Council

25 June 2018 at 5:19 pm
Wendy Williams
The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council accusing it of a "chronic bias” against Israel.

Wendy Williams | 25 June 2018 at 5:19 pm


US Withdraws from Human Rights Council
25 June 2018 at 5:19 pm

The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council accusing it of a “chronic bias” against Israel.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, made the announcement in Washington last week, alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The pair slammed the council, describing it as a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights”.

In particular Haley hit out at Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting America’s efforts to reform the council.

“For too long the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said.

“Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded.”

She explained the US problem with the body was twofold centering on the make-up of its membership and what it considered a disproportionate focus on allegations of human rights abuses committed by Israel.

“The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny and the council continues politicising and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers and their ranks,” she said.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia shared many of the US’s concerns about the council, “particularly its anti-Israel bias”, but was disappointed by its decision.

She said it was in Australia’s interest to shape the work of the council and “work constructively” on human rights issues with other countries, including the US.

“It was our strong preference for the US to remain a member of the UNHRC and I had made this known to senior members of the Trump administration,” Bishop said.

The US’ withdrawal makes it the only country to have pulled out of the world entity since the council was founded in 2006.

The move has been widely condemned by human rights groups who warn it could make advancing human rights globally even more difficult.

It marks the latest in an increasingly isolationist approach towards international institutions since US President Donald Trump took power, and comes a month after the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and a year after the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Meanwhile Australian human rights expert and UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston has criticised the United States for failing to tackle poverty and giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

In a damning report handed down at the the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva just days after the US withdrew from the body, Alston said high US income inequality could “only be made worse” by the Trump administration’s policy of cutting taxes.

“At the other end of the spectrum, 40 million Americans live in poverty and 18.5 million of those live in extreme poverty,” Alston said.

He hit back at criticisms that had been leveled at him by Haley in the days prior that it was “patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America”.

Haley accused Alston of political bias and wasting UN money by carrying out the six-month investigation into poverty and inequality in America, saying he should have focused on countries like Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But Alston retorted that “when one of the world’s wealthiest countries does very little about the fact that 40 million of its citizens live in poverty, it is entirely appropriate for the reasons to be scrutinized”.

Questions have since been raised over the timing of the US withdrawal from the council coming so soon before the report was handed down.

Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, asked in a tweet: “Is it just a coincidence that the US withdraws from the UN Human Rights Council two days before it examines the Trump administration’s neglect of poverty in the United States?”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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