U.S. Leaves U.N. Human Rights Council

It’s official — the United States of America has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

And technically, this isn’t the first time. Or, technically it is.

As we’ve discussed before, back in 2006 when the UNHRC was known as the Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. withdrew under the George W. Bush administration, and we didn’t return to the table until President Barack Obama was elected and the Commission had been dissolved and remade as the Human Rights Council.

So if you want to get nit-picky, we’ve now withdrawn once from each form of the U.N. humanitarian board.

This was by no means unexpected — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and the White House both announced their intention last Friday following a 120-8 vote by the council to condemn Israel over the violence in Gaza.

The Israeli military is responsible for the deaths of at least 100 protesters and for the injuries of more than 14,000 Palestinians since the beginning of the Great March of Return, which began March 30.

In keeping with her habitually bombastic style, Haley launched insults at the council in volleys that would make her Israeli military allies proud.

“We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

While Haley herself legitimately addressed the fact that the UNHRC does overlook the human rights abuses of many of its members, the overall focus of both Haley and the U.S. government was on the council’s “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel.

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The UNHRC has its issues, and they are numerous.

For example, one of its members is Saudi Arabia, which is arguably one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet and which continues to this day to exercise horrific forms of capital punishment such as beheading.

Fun fact — by April of this year the Saudi government had already beheaded 48 people.

Another UNHRC member is Venezuela.

The autocratic regime of President Nicolás Maduro is effectively starving Venezuelan citizens and has pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse.

Venezuelan bolivars are worth so little as a currency that people are better off turning the colorful bills into anything else — purses, bags, bracelets — literally anything else.

And yet, the question begging to be asked is, “What can the U.S. do outside of the U.N. to hold those members to account?”

The answer? Pretty much nothing.

Especially considering the fact that the U.S. government is currently committing its own human rights abuses by forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents.

Yes, it’s true, the president signed an executive order yesterday that is supposed to end the policy, but like all products of this administration, it is more than a little misleading — read more about that here.

The point is, the U.S. doesn’t have very firm footing when it comes to trying to reassume its role as the enforcer of human rights in the world right now.

“The UN Human Rights Council has always been a problem. Instead of focusing on real human-rights issues, the council has used its time and resources to bully Israel and question Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. But the way to deal with this challenge is to remain engaged and work with partners to push for change. By withdrawing from the council, we lose our leverage and allow the council’s bad actors to follow their worst impulses unchecked — including running roughshod over Israel.”  — Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking Democratic member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

The bed has been made, and now Haley and company will have to sleep in it.

As for the rest of us, all we can do is wait and see how long it takes for our nation to step back up to the table.

 

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