(CN) – The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, one day after that organization’s chief slammed U.S. immigration policy as “unconscionable."
“For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said this afternoon.
Haley announced the departure this afternoon, after U.N. high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein opened the council's latest session on Monday with harsh words for President Donald Trump.
Echoing the finding by the American Association of Pediatrics, al-Hussein said that the United States is engaging in “government-sanctioned child abuse” by causing the separation of approximately 2,000 immigrant children from their parents.
“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said. “I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children, and I encourage the government to at last ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in order to ensure that the fundamental rights of all children, whatever their administrative status, will be at the center of all domestic laws and policies.”
A spokeswoman for Al-Hussein had noted on June 5 that the United States is the only U.N. member state that has refused to ratify the 1990 treaty, which for decades has granted protections for minors that bars execution or life imprisonment.
Since Trump’s election, the United States has threatened to withdraw funding from the United Nations over a variety of disputes, including climate change and the U.N.’s criticism of Israel for its occupation of the Palestinian territories – the only country-specific permanent item on the council’s agenda.
Last year in Geneva, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that the U.S. would pull out of the council without substantial reforms. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo skewered the 47-member state body for its inclusion of human rights abusers like China, Cuba and Venezuela, remaining silent on U.S.-allied authoritarian regimes like Saudi Arabia.
“Governments with egregious human rights records sit on the Human Rights Council,” Pompeo said. “We have no doubt that there was once a noble vision for this council, but today we need to be honest: The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights.”
“Worse than that, the Human Rights Council is an exercise in shameless hypocrisy,” the secretary added.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a statement through a spokesman that was as mild and accommodating as Haley and Pompeo’s were acrimonious.
“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
In 2016, Brookings Institute fellow Ted Piccone noted that more than 74 percent of countries that form its council rank as “free” or “partly free” in rankings by the Washington-based non-profit Freedom House.
Among the council’s achievements, Piccone listed the groundbreaking 372-page report blasting North Korea’s dictatorial regime.
"Political scientists of the twentieth century characterized this type of political organization as a totalitarian state: a state that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens' lives and terrorizes them from within," a blistering summary of the 36-page report states.
President Trump so far has shunned the international peacekeeping body’s help in negotiating over the denuclearization of North Korea.
For Martin Edwards, an associate professor at Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy, the Trump administration’s maneuver would not only fail to achieve its stated goals – but backfire on the United States and its allies.
“You're looking at the choice of a foreign policy team that does not understand how to advance American influence and is very good at diminishing it," Edwards said.
While the Trump White House has long threatened to withdraw from the rights group, Edwards found the timing of its follow-through suspicious.
“If you think about why they time things the way they do, it’s red meat to throw the base to distract them from the atrocities that we’re committing on the border in things that aren’t cages in a policy that doesn’t exist,” the professor added.
Quoting an old expression, Edwards predicted that the United States exit from the council will not quiet U.N. condemnation of Trump’s immigration policy.
“If you’re not in the room, you’re on the menu,” Edwards said.
The same is true for its allies: If the Trump administration wants to quell the council’s criticism of Israel, Edwards noted, the United States advanced that goal far more effectively when it remained on the council.
Also on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres warned that Gaza is “on the brink of war” now since Israel started violently clamping down on the Palestinian protests there in March. Israeli army fire has killed at least 130 Palestinians and wounded 13,000 others since that time.
The United States now joins Iran, North Korea and Eritrea as the only countries that refuse to participate in the council’s meetings and deliberations, the New York Times noted.
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