In what critics framed as Orwellian 'up-is-down, down-is-up' remarks from the State Department on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, claiming the body responsible for upholding international standards for human rights was no longer "worthy of its name."
"The Trump administration seems to have determined that it has more to gain by dismantling human rights protections for some than raising the bar for everyone." —Abby Maxman, Oxfam AmericaHaley—who has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the human rights violations of close U.S. ally Israel, including multiple charges regarding that country's alleged war crimes carried out against Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza—said the withdrawal from the council was necessary "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."
Admittedly, it IS pretty embarrassing that Saudi Arabia is on the Human Rights Council but I'm betting $$$$$ that's not who Pompeo has in mind. https://t.co/GX0V34oEJZ
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) June 19, 2018
Palestinian rights activists, in particular, expressed contempt for the announcement and its implications:
US withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council is another example of how unconditional support for Israel means you can’t support human rights standards anywhere for anyone. Israel threatens entire international system for defending human rights, such as it is.
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) June 19, 2018
Says a person that is part of a hypocritical and self-serving administration that makes a mockery of human rights https://t.co/otFC6hMTah
— (((YousefMunayyer))) (@YousefMunayyer) June 19, 2018
Not a surprise, as the move had been telegraphed for weeks, the official announcement was still met with scorn by actual human rights defenders who broadly condemned the move.
"I am outraged, but frankly not surprised," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif), in a statement after the announcement was made.
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"This decision serves no purpose other than to weaken our leadership on the world stage and isolate us from our allies," Lee continued. "With sensitive negotiations underway with North Korea and ongoing human rights abuses happening around the world, our government should be upholding our commitments – not retreating from our role in protecting human rights."
Abby Maxman, president of Oxfam America, said the move was "short-sighted" and would have "profound consequences" for U.S. standing in the world and its legacy on human rights.
"Diplomacy is not a zero-sum game," Maxman added. "Creating lasting, positive change for people around the world requires a long-term commitment to human rights. But as children are being ripped from their parents’ arms at the US border and domestic violence survivors are being told that their suffering is not worthy of asylum in the US, the Trump administration seems to have determined that it has more to gain by dismantling human rights protections for some than raising the bar for everyone."
Amnesty International put it this way:
Ten good reasons for the #US to leave the UN Human Rights Council.
(there are none)
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) June 19, 2018
As Lee put it, "Relinquishing our seat at the table will not advance human rights. It won't empower the oppressed. It will only undermine America's credibility in the world."