United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday termed the Human Rights Council as the UN’s “greatest failure” while defending her country’s decision to withdraw from the council.
The Donald Trump administration left the Geneva-based organisation on June 20, calling the council “cesspool of political bias”. Haley had claimed then that the “hypocritical and self-serving” organisation had made a “mockery of human rights”.
“Judged by how far it has fallen short of its promise, the Human Rights Council is the UN’s greatest failure,” Haley said during a speech at American think-tank, The Heritage Foundation, on Wednesday. “It has taken the idea of human dignity...and it has reduced it to just another instrument of international politics. And that is a great tragedy.”
Though the United Nations was founded to promote peace and security based on justice, equal rights, and the self-determination of people, the leaders of many of its member nations “completely reject” that purpose, Haley said. “When that happens, many well-meaning countries adopt a position of neutrality in the hope of coming to an agreement with these nations,” she said. “They effectively allow dictatorships and authoritarian regimes to control the agenda.”
“Resolutions get watered down until they are meaningless – or they become objectively anti-democratic,” the envoy added. “Moral clarity becomes a casualty of the need to placate tyrants, all in the name of building consensus.”
The Human Rights Council has provided a voice for the voiceless, she conceded, citing the examples of the council highlighting crimes in Syria and North Korea or injustices suffered by political prisoners. But, these have only been the exceptions, she claimed. “More often, the Human Rights Council has provided cover, not condemnation, for the world’s most inhumane regimes. It has been a bully pulpit for human rights violators. And the Human Rights Council has been, not a place of conscience, but a place of politics.”
She added: “It has focused its attention unfairly and relentlessly on Israel. Meanwhile, it has ignored the misery inflicted by regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and China.”
“Many of our friends urged us to stay for the sake of the institution. The United States, they said, provided the last shred of credibility the Council had,” Haley added. “But that was precisely why we withdrew.”
No one should make the mistake of equating membership in the Human Rights Council with the support for human rights, she said, claiming that the United States does more for human rights than any other country. “We just won’t do it inside a Council that consistently fails the cause of human rights.”
While withdrawing from the council, last month, Haley had cited the council’s “entrenched bias against Israel”, the admission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the body though mass graves were discovered there, and the “failure” to address human rights abuses in Venezuela and Iran as reasons.
The US’ move to withdraw came a day after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein criticised the Donald Trump administration for separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents at the US border, calling the policy “unconscionable”.