- The US was right to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council.
- The optics of leaving right now, with the current border crisis, are far from optimal.
- Even so, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and the administration made the right decision, if not at the best time.
The US exodus from the UN’s Human Rights Council has been a long time coming, even if the timing now is not exactly optimal.
It’s become clear that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is the sharpest, most moral member of the Trump administration. Her advocacy on behalf of US allies in the UN has been remarkable, and she is perhaps the one member of the administration who I sincerely hope continues to have a long and illustrious career in Republican politics.
All this is why it’s a little frustrating that the exodus came when it did. Earlier this week, the UN high commissioner for human rights added his voice to the chorus condemning the administration’s zero-tolerance policy at the border. It’s not a great look for the US to be withdrawing from the UNHRC in the aftermath of that condemnation, and while it is engaging in a total disregard for human rights and humanitarianism.
Withdrawing from the council was undoubtedly the right move, and one that deserves praise. It also should have served as a teaching moment: The US takes human rights seriously, it takes its allegiance to its allies seriously, and it will not continue to lend legitimacy to a corrupt body that has never lived up to its name.
Unfortunately, the actions of the Trump administration have made that impossible. Most people – even those who might have otherwise been persuaded- are not going to believe that the US made a just, morally-inspired decision, giving the current goings on at the border.
Pundits and politicians alike should be doing their part to ensure that the US discontinues its practice of separating parents from children and finds a fair, moral, lasting solution to the issue of immigration.
But for a moment, and only a moment, we should pivot to recognise that this recent issue aside, our nation has an excellent record of standing up for the rights of all people – American or not. That’s what really inspired the decision to withdraw from the UNHRC, and that’s what deserves recognition.
Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the non-governmental organisation UN Watch, has offered the clearest commentary on this issue. On Tuesday, Amnesty International posted a snarky tweet:
Ten good reasons for the #US to leave the UN Human Rights Council.
(there are none)
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) June 19, 2018
In response, Neuer filled in those ten blanks.
The good reasons for leaving the UNHRC, he explained, are:
- “Members of the UNHRC include China, Cuba, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Egypt, Iraq, UAE, DR Congo, & other thieves, murderers & rapists.”
- “Council rep Alfred de Zayas ex-Secretary of the UN Human Rights Committee, praised Venezuela & posted propaganda photos to deny mass hunger caused by the regime’s failed policies-even as hospitals there are filled with starving children.”
- “The UNHRC appointed Idriss Jazairy-who as Algerian ambassador infamously drafted a Code of Conduct to muzzle UN human rights experts-as a UN human rights expert. His reports describe the regimes of Russia, Sudan & Syria as victims of Western sanctions.”
- “Saudi Arabia was made chair of the UN Human Rights Council panel that selects top officials-including the UN expert on women’s rights-who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide.”
- “Not only was the regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro elected to the UN Human Rights Council, but they then rolled out the red carpet for him to address a special assembly & deliver a 40-minute propaganda speech, met by a standing ovation.”
- “The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly reelected & honored its longest-serving official Jean Ziegler, co-founder and 2002 recipient of the ‘Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize.’ UN Watch was the only one to take the floor and call out the disgrace.”
- “For six years the UNHRC had Richard Falk as their “Special Rapporteur on Palestine,” even though he was condemned by the British government three times for #antisemitism, and by Ban Ki-moon for his ‘preposterous and insulting’ 9/11 conspiracy theories.”
- “The UN Human Rights Council gives impunity for most of the world’s worst regimes, adopting #zero resolutions on gross human rights abuses perpetrated in Algeria, China, Cuba, Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.”
- “UNHRC’s 2009 Goldstone Commission into Hamas-Israel war hired Dr. Grietje Baars to be their impartial author of key chapters of the report – knowing she was a radical supporter of Hamas & former European spox of the IHH terrorist-backed Gaza flotilla”.
- “UNHRC repeatedly rewarded Qaddafi regime rep Najat Al-Hajjaji with key posts, including Chair of the prepcom for the Durban II conference on racism. When some tried to challenge her crimes, your @amnesty rep in Geneva flew into a rage and defended her.”
These are all immoral actions taken by a body ostensibly dedicated to the advancement of human rights. The reality is that they have long abandoned that mission, acting instead as “a deeply flawed institution, which harms the cause of human rights more than it helps it,” as Haley explained in her op-ed outlining why the US was withdrawing.
But Haley also promised that “our withdrawal from the council will not end America’s own steadfast commitment to human rights.” If she hopes to honour that pledge, she should become the loudest voice criticising the actions at the border.
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