The United States is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Tuesday, branding the global body a “cesspool of political bias.”
“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,” she said at a press conference announcing the move.
The council, she added, has a “chronic bias against Israel.”
Haley said that if the council reforms, the United States “would be happy to rejoin.”
Although the US could have remained a non-voting observer on the council, a US official said it was a “complete withdrawal” and that the United States was resigning its seat “effective immediately.” The official wasn’t authorized to comment publicly and insisted on anonymity.
US officials said earlier Tuesday that the administration had concluded that its efforts to promote reform on the council had failed, and that withdrawal was the only step it could take to demonstrate its seriousness. It was not immediately clear if the US would remain a non-voting observer on the council.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley at the State Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a “noble vision.”
But today we need to be honest,” Pompeo said. “The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights.”
Haley and Pompeo stressed the decision had been made after a long year of efforts to shame the council into reform and to remove member states that themselves commit abuses.
“These reforms were needed in order to make the council a serious advocate for human rights,” Haley said. “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.”
But, as Haley stressed, Washington also believes it comes up short on criticizing even flagrant abuses by US opponents like Venezuela and Cuba.
“Countries have colluded with each other to undermine the current method of selecting members,” Pompeo said. “And the council’s continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” he said.
“Since its creation, the council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than against the rest of the world combined,” he noted.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the US move, branding the council “a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights.”
Haley, who issued a warning a year ago that Washington would make good on its threat to leave the council if reforms were not carried through, used even starker language.