In what would be the first such event in the council’s life, President Trump is reportedly expected to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council in protest of what it perceives as an entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers as members.
As The Washington Post reports, a decision to leave the 47-nation body, as most observers anticipate, would be more definitive than the lesser option of staying on as a nonvoting observer.
It would represent another retreat by the Trump administration from international groups and agreements whose policies it deems out of sync with American interests on trade, defense, climate change and now, human rights.
And it would leave the council without the United States playing a key role in promoting human rights around the world.
This is the first time since the Human Rights Council was formed in 2006 that a sitting member would volunteer to step aside, though Libya was suspended in 2011 after a government crackdown on unarmed protesters.
However, a U.S. departure would deprive Israel of its chief defender at a forum where Israel’s human rights record comes up for discussion at every single meeting, a standing “Item 7” on the agenda.
“It’s true, the Human Rights Council continues to disproportionately focus on Israel,” said Peter Yeo, an official with the United Nations Foundation that connects the organization with private and nongovernmental groups and foundations.
“But with U.S. leadership, the attention Israel brought has dropped significantly. U.S. leadership matters. We’re still the only ones with credibility on human rights on the world stage.”
The Trump administration’s irritation with the council makeup and its agenda has been telegraphed with drumbeat regularity by Haley. A year ago, she denigrated it as a “forum for politics, hypocrisy and evasion,” and threatened a U.S. exit if the council did not kick out abusive regimes and remove Item 7, the standing resolution critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Of course, the real joke is some of the member’s shocking human rights records:
“The United States is looking very carefully at this council and our participation in it,” she told council members. “Being a member of this council is a privilege, and no country who is a human rights violator should be allowed a seat at the table.”
The council’s current membership includes 14 countries that are ranked as “not free” by Freedom House: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, China, Cuba, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Additionally, the US decision comes just a day after the UN’s high commissioner for human rights called the Trump administration policy of separating children from parents crossing the southern border illegally “unconscionable.”