The United States Announced Withdrawal From United Nations Human Rights Council
The United States announced to the United Nations its intention to withdraw from the intergovernmental organization’s Human Rights Council.
The United States under President Trump has yet again withdrawn the country from a major global body — this time the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The move is not surprising but sudden, coming a day after the Human Rights Council criticized the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement at a press conference in Washington.
The announcement comes a day after the HRC criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their migrant parents at the US border with Mexico, with UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein calling the practice “unconscionable.”
The United States is the first country ever to quit the HRC. It joined the HRC in 2009 under the Obama administration and served two terms until 2015. It rejoined in 2016 and was set to stay on the council until 2019 before the latest announce,ent to quit the HRC.
Reactions from around the world
The HRC was swift in its response through a statement posted on the social media network Twitter.
“Disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of #HumanRights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back” — UN Human Rights Chief #Zeid following USA decision to withdraw from U.N. Human Rights Council.#StandUp4HumanRights
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) June 19, 2018
The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström also took to Twitter to express her regret about the U.S. move. She wrote that “[i]t comes at a time when the world needs more human rights and a stronger UN – not the opposite.”
It saddens me that the US has decided to withdraw from the UN human rights council. It comes at a time when the world needs more human rights and a stronger UN – not the opposite.
— Margot Wallström (@margotwallstrom) June 20, 2018
U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a member of the opposition Democratic party, said the move was a “serious mistake”.
The UN Human Rights Council isn’t perfect, but withdrawing the United States from this important body sends a clear message that the Trump Administration does not intend to lead the world when it comes to human rights,” Coons said according to Deutsche Welle.
The German government through its permanent representation to the United Nations in Geneva also expressed sadness about the decision of the Trump administration, saying that “multilateral discussions are often hard work, but the only way forward!”
We are very #sad about the US decision to leave the #HumanRightsCouncil. We will continue to promote and protect #HumanRights in this important forum. Multilateral discussions are often hard work, but the only way forward! #StandUp4HumanRights pic.twitter.com/KIUk3vfPok
— Germany UN Geneva (@GermanyUNGeneva) June 20, 2018
What’s the HRC: purpose and controversy
The HRC was established in 2006 to examine human rights breaches in UN member states. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and it meets three times per year. The HRC aims to protect and promote Human Rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, religious freedom, women’s rights, LGBT rights and rights of racial and ethnic minorities. The HRC resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority.
The HRC has 47 member countries, which are elected to three-year terms by the General Assembly. Membership is distributed among five global regions and member countries cannot immediately seek reelection after two consecutive terms. Members of the council include countries like Germany and Japan, but also China, Cuba and Venezuela — countries that are themselves accused of human rights violations, as the Deutsche Welle reports.