When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley jointly announced that the United States would withdraw from the U.N.’s flawed Human Rights Council, The Heritage Foundation hailed the move.
“Over the past year, the U.S. has tried again and again to make the Human Rights Council work,” Heritage’s top U.N. expert, Brett Schaefer, wrote for FoxNews.com. “These American efforts have been met with disinterest and hostility.”
The June 19 announcement followed many warnings from Haley after being tapped as U.N. ambassador by President Donald Trump and assuming the post in January 2017.
.@SecPompeo: the Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy -- with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored & most serious offenders sit on the council sit in pious and self-righteous judgement of others with infinitely better records. pic.twitter.com/R1uYs0LZWE— Department of State (@StateDept) June 19, 2018
Haley spoke at Heritage on July 18, a month after announcing the decision.
“The United States, they said, provided the last shred of credibility the council had. But that was precisely why we had to withdraw. The right to speak freely, to associate and worship freely; to determine your own future; to be equal before the law—these are sacred rights,” Haley said “We take these rights seriously—too seriously to allow them to be cheapened by an institution that merely calls itself the ‘Human Rights Council.’”
Haley routinely identified many major flaws within the Human Rights Council and demanded action from other member states. Anti-Israel bias, member states with severe records as human rights abusers, and a lack of a system to hold those countries accountable for their actions topped the list.
The predecessor to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Commission, was criticized for many of the same reasons and was replaced in 2006.
The Heritage Foundation strongly criticized the Human Rights Commission for its manifest shortcomings. Concern that the council would fall prey to those same problems prompted the U.S. to vote against the resolution establishing the replacement body. Heritage strongly supported the U.S. position.
Twelve years later, it’s clear that the council is no better than the commission.
China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela and other human rights violators hold seats on the Human Rights Council. They are still not held accountable, and anti-Israel bias remains prevalent.
The United States’ withdrawal from the Human Rights Council does not mean the U.S. won’t continue to press for reform.
“No one should make the mistake of equating membership in the Human Rights Council with support for human rights,” Haley said. “To this day, the United States does more for human rights, both inside the U.N. and around the world, [than] any other country. And we will continue to do that.”
The Trump administration has displayed a distinct difference from its predecessor, which all too often defended the council, even in the face of its anti-Israel bias and ineffectiveness.
Because of the ongoing, egregious record on human rights of the council and the resistance from other governments to U.S. reform proposals, Heritage’s experts felt vindicated by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw.
“[Haley] fought hard to reform the council, and showed grit and resolution by withdrawing when that effort failed,” said Brett Schaefer, Heritage senior research fellow in international regulatory affairs. “The council performed no better with America as a member than it did absent the U.S.
“Such a farce does not merit the credibility that U.S. membership granted it,” he said.