Striking a blow against the UN Human Rights Council’s credibility, the US is withdrawing from the “hypocritical” organisation, US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley has announced.
“For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said on Tuesday.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last week asked the Council, whose credibility has been questioned in stark terms by India and now the US, to set up a commission of inquiry into alleged abuses in Kashmir.
“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 in their ranks,” Haley said.
The US is an elected member of the Council with its term running till the end of next year.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also denounced it saying: “The Human Rights Council enables abuses by absolving wrongdoers through silence and falsely condemning those who have committed no offense. A mere look around the world today demonstrates that the council has failed in its stated objectives.
“When they seek to infringe on our national sovereignty, we will not be silent,” he added.
India’s criticism of Zeid’s report recommending the Council probe also made the same point.
“The report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said last week.
“It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report,” he added.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s reaction was muted.
His spokesman Stephane Dujarric said he “would have much preferred for the US to remain in the Human Rights Council” as it “plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide”.
Pompeo said that while the US supports in principle multilateral bodies working to protect human rights, “when organisations undermine our national interests and our allies, we will not be complicit”.
Zeid criticised President Donald Trump’s administration this week for enforcing the requirement to separate children from parents who are facing possible prosecution for entering the US illegally
The 47 members of the Council are elected to three-year terms by the General Assembly with regional representation without regard to their human rights records.
The current membership includes Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Venezuela.
The main focus of Washington’s ire was the Council’s criticism of Israel, which Pompeo said was an “unconscionable” sign of bias.
Haley said she had tried for more than a year to reform the Council with her team reaching out to 125 countries but failed because the efforts were undermined by Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt among others.
“Our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights,” she said.
The Human Rights High Commissioner works often in tandem with the Council, though both are independent.
Zeid’s term ends at the end of this year and his successor will have to be appointed by Guterres with the approval of the General Assembly.