Need to Know: Trump Administration Pulls U.S. From U.N. Human Rights Council
Facing growing criticism for the cruel treatment of migrant families crossing its border, the United States retreats further into isolation from the global community.
Published on June 20, 2018

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; photo via IIP Photo Archive

Under direction from the Trump administration, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the United States would exit the U.N. Human Rights Council, becoming the first nation to voluntarily depart the 47-country body since the group was formed in 2006.

According to the Washington Post, Haley and the Trump administration withdrew from the U.N. council — charged with the mission of denouncing and investigating human rights violations — as a show of support for Israel, which U.S. government officials claim has been unfairly targeted by the group. As recently as last month, Israeli forces shot and killed more than 50 Palestinian protesters.

In a press engagement announcing the Trump administration’s latest diplomatic departure, Haley chose not to speak on the latest string of casualties in Gaza, and instead derided the U.N. Council’s “hypocrisy” for focusing on Israel more than violations in countries such as Iran, Venezuela, Congo, and others.

"Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council," Haley, flanked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told reporters. "The world's most inhumane regimes continue to escape its scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in its ranks."

The decision comes just a day after the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein of Jordan, strongly denounced the Trump administration’s controversial policy of migrant family separation: “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.”

Following a contentious G7 meeting earlier this month and an ongoing battle over trade tariffs, the Trump administration’s breakup with the U.N. council is the latest in a string of isolationist foreign policy moves. Instead of leaning into the United States’ traditional role as a world leader, Trump and his rotating cadre of advisors and cabinet members have instead turned their back on any situation that does not align with their nationalist goals. Like Trump’s moves on trade and immigration, the U.N. council upheaval drew immediate rebukes from the global community.

"Once again President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the U.S. claims to uphold,” Amnesty International's secretary-general Salil Shetty told CNN. “While the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains an important force for accountability and justice."

The Trump administration remains in the midst of its own human rights fiasco, as U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and international officials deride the White House’s “zero tolerance” border crossing policy that has resulted in thousands of migrant children being forcibly separated from their parents and detained in prison-like cages run by the U.S. government.

Despite bills introduced from both Democratic and Republican legislators looking to immediately end the cruel anti-family border policy, the Trump administration has failed to respond, and continues to detain more children every day.

Haley told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. would remain focused on investigating and preventing human rights violations — but did not offer any recent demonstrations of that supposed goodwill.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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