U.S. Withdraws from Human Rights Council

Remarks on the UN Human Rights Council
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley
06/19/2018
[Excerpts; Editor’s text bolding]

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. The Trump administration is committed to protecting and promoting the God-given dignity and freedom of every human being. Every individual has rights that are inherent and inviolable. They are given by God, and not by government. Because of that, no government must take them away.

For decades, the United States has led global efforts to promote human rights, often through multilateral institutions. While we have seen improvements in certain human rights situations, for far too long we have waited while that progress comes too slowly or in some cases never comes. Too many commitments have gone unfulfilled.

President Trump wants to move the ball forward. From day one, he has called out institutions or countries who say one thing and do another. And that’s precisely the problem at the Human Rights Council. As President Trump said at the UN General Assembly: “It is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the Human Rights Council.”

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 has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy – with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored, and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself.

The only thing worse than a council that does almost nothing to protect human rights is a council that covers for human rights abuses and is therefore an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change. The Human Rights Council enables abuses by absolving wrongdoers through silence and falsely condemning those who have committed no offense. A mere look around the world today demonstrates that the council has failed in its stated objectives.

Its membership includes authoritarian governments with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights records, such as China, Cuba, and Venezuela.

There is no fair or competitive election process, and countries have colluded with one another to undermine the current method of selecting members.
And the council’s continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable. Since its creation, the council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than against the rest of the world combined.

The United States has no opposition in principle to multilateral bodies working to protect human rights. We desire to work with our allies and partners on this critical objective that reflects America’s commitment to freedom.

But when organizations undermine our national interests and our allies, we will not be complicit. When they seek to infringe on our national sovereignty, we will not be silent.
The United States – which leads the world in humanitarian assistance, and whose service members have sacrificed life and limb to free millions from oppression and tyranny – will not take lectures form hypocritical bodies and institution as Americans selflessly give their blood and treasure to help the defenseless…

Ambassador Haley has spent more than a year trying to reform the Human Rights Council…

AMBASSADOR HALEY: Thank you. Good afternoon. I want to thank Secretary Pompeo for his friendship and his partnership and his leadership as we move forward on these issues.
One year ago, I traveled to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. On that occasion, I outlined the U.S. priorities for advancing human rights and I declared our intent to remain a part of the Human Rights Council if essential reforms were achieved. These reforms were needed in order to make the council a serious advocate for human rights. For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias.

Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded. Human rights abusers continue to serve on and be elected to the council. The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks…

When a so-called Human Rights Council cannot bring itself to address the massive abuses in Venezuela and Iran, and it welcomes the Democratic Republic of Congo as a new member, the council ceases to be worthy of its name. Such a council, in fact, damages the cause of human rights.

And then, of course, there is the matter of the chronic bias against Israel. Last year, the United States made it clear that we would not accept the continued existence of agenda item seven, which singles out Israel in a way that no other country is singled out. Earlier this year, as it has in previous years, the Human Rights Council passed five resolutions against Israel – more than the number passed against North Korea, Iran, and Syria combined. This disproportionate focus and unending hostility towards Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights.

For all these reasons, the United States spent the past year engaged in a sincere effort to reform the Human Rights Council. It is worth examining why our efforts didn’t succeed. At its core, there are two reasons. First, there are many unfree countries that simply do not want the council to be effective. A credible human rights council poses a real threat to them, so they opposed the steps that would create it.

Look at the council membership and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic human rights. These countries strongly resist any effort to expose their abusive practices. In fact, that’s why many of them run for a seat on the Human Rights Council in the first place: to protect themselves from scrutiny. When we made it clear we would strongly pursue council reform, these countries came out of the woodwork to oppose it. Russia, China, Cuba, and Egypt all attempted to undermine our reform efforts this past year…

I have traveled to the – to UN refugee and internally displaced persons camps in Ethiopia, Congo, Turkey, and Jordan, and met with the victims of atrocities in those troubled regions. We have used America’s voice and vote to defend human rights at the UN every day, and we will continue to do so. Even as we end our membership in the Human Rights Council, we will keep trying to strengthen the entire framework of the UN engagement on human rights issues, and we will continue to strongly advocate for reform of the Human Rights Council. Should it become reformed, we would be happy to rejoin it.

America has a proud legacy as a champion of human rights, a proud legacy as the world’s largest provider of humanitarian aid, and a proud legacy of liberating oppressed people and defeating tyranny throughout the world. While we do not seek to impose the American system on anyone else, we do support the rights of all people to have freedoms bestowed on them by their creator. That is why we are withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, an organization that is not worthy of its name.

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Press statement by the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Vojislav Suc (Slovenia)
19 June 2018
GENEVA, 19 June 2018 — Today I learned of the decision by the United States to withdraw its membership from the Human Rights Council.

While I recognize it is the prerogative of any member State to take such a decision, I wish to acknowledge that the United States has been a very active participant at the Council having engaged constructively on numerous issues aimed at improving the lives of rights holders around the globe, including the many issues which we are addressing in our current session. The Human Rights Council always stands to benefit from constructive engagement of its member States.

In times when the value and strength of multilateralism and human rights are being challenged on a daily basis, it is essential that we uphold a strong and vibrant Council recognizing it as a central part of the United Nations for the 21st century.

Over the past 12 years, the Human Rights Council has tackled numerous human rights situations and issues keeping them in sharp focus. In many senses, the Council serves as an early warning system by sounding the alarm bells ahead of impending or worsening crises. Its actions lead to meaningful results for the countless human rights victims worldwide, those the Council serves.

The Human Rights Council is the only intergovernmental body responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide, with the active participation of civil society. It provides a unique setting to hear a wide range of views, including those which other organisations are unable or unwilling to discuss.

Evidence of the significant role the Council plays is on display at our current session where dozens of independent human rights experts and investigative bodies, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other participants, will appraise the international community about human rights issues and situations throughout the world.

The matter of filling the vacancy left in the Council membership through the United States’ decision will need to be addressed by the United Nations General Assembly.