US Withdraws from UN Human Rights Council
Another unilateral withdrawal from an international institution.
The United States withdrew on Tuesday from the world’s most important human rights body in protest of its frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. It was the latest effort by the Trump administration to pull away from international organizations and agreements that it finds objectionable.
It was the first time a member has voluntarily left the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United States now joins Iran, North Korea and Eritrea as the only countries that refuse to participate in the council’s meetings and deliberations.
“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,” Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said in a speech on Tuesday. “This disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights.”
Ok, so let’s consider the last week or so.
- The US government is under intense criticism for the way it is handling immigrant families and is engaged in conscious policy actions aimed at leveraging human suffering to get a desired legislative outcome.
- The President of the United States treated Kim Jung Un like an equal, and praised him: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country.” Trump also minimized Kim’s record of abuse. When FNC’s Bret Baier noted “[Kim]’s done some really bad things,” Trump replied: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”
- And now Trump has withdrawn the US from the UN Human Rights Council.
At a minimum, it is more than bizarre to criticize the Council for not admonishing North Korea enough and then joining a very small group of nations outside the Council which includes North Korea.
In the grand scheme of things, this is not the worst thing that the Trump administration is doing at the moment. Indeed, the worst thing it is doing at the moment is engaging in human rights abuses in the name of immigration law.
Still, even if one thinks that the UNHRC is ineffective, or that it criticizes Israel too much, one still has to admit that the symbolism of this withdrawal is problematic. The move, along with the border policies of the administration, its praise of Kim, and its opprobrium for our democratic allies (among other things) certainly underscores that President Trump seems to lack much sympathy for what are usually thought of as core American ideals (that whole democracy and human rights thing).
Look, I am not outraged by this in the sense I that understand the limitations of the body in question. Still, it is more than a bit chilling that the US President seems not to care about human rights (certainly that is the signal at the moment). Further, his disdain for international institutions, and American leadership and influence, continues to be troubling.