President Donald Trump was accused of depriving "the U.S. of a much needed voice at the U.N. on the struggle against racism" after his administration moved to block the reappointment of a human rights lawyer to sit on a key committee, leaving the position vacant.
A State Department official said the White House intervened to prevent the expected renomination of a human rights lawyer chosen by former President Barack Obama for the 18-member U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD].
The official said the Trump administration may simply have run out of time to find a replacement before a deadline. Even so, the official added, "it cements the narrative that the Americans just don't care about these kinds of things anymore."
Calling the development "disappointing," Joshua Castellino, executive director of Minority Rights Group, said, "It is symptomatic of a government seemingly high on ideology but bereft of ideas on how to tackle the real issues at stake, while generating alternate crises and noise to boost support for itself."
The lawyer in question is Gay McDougall, whom the Center for Constitutional Rights praised for her experience. In a Twitter thread on Monday, the New York-based group criticized the administration's move:
At the same time, the Trump admin has shown contempt for all international bodies – from the United Nations to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the International Criminal Court – and their efforts toward accountability and the promotion of human and civil rights.— The CCR (@theCCR) April 17, 2019
She worked on the World Conference against Racism and was then made the United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues. She's spent her entire life and career on these issues, and has a deep familiarity with the comparative issues of racism and what the UN can and can't do.— The CCR (@theCCR) April 17, 2019
As Gay McDougall says, “The Black voice is very special. We have a deep understanding of how these issues play out. We have important input on the global institutions that work on discrimination.”— The CCR (@theCCR) April 17, 2019
Also criticizing the development was Jasmine L. Tyler, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program, who called it "yet another example of the U.S.'s backpedaling from multilateralism/international organizations," noting "a series of U.S. withdrawals from international treaties and supporting organizations."
She also noted that the
move comes at a time when the U.S.'s mandatory submission for periodic review to the CERD is almost a year and a half overdue. In 2017, the CERD issued an early warning after President Trump failed to denounce anti-semitism at the race riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Heather Heyer was murdered. Recently, 90 groups urged U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to invite the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism to investigate racial discrimination and xenophobia in the U.S.