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  • Krischan Jung

US Withdraws from the UNHRC

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

On March 15, 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was established by the United Nations General Assembly, dedicated to investigating allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states as well as addressing thematic human rights issues. The UNHRC consists of 47 member states elected for 3 year terms. While initially, the Bush administration refused to join the body directly and instead support it financially, the US eventually joined the body in 2009 under the Obama administration. It was since re-elected to join the council in 2012. However, on June 19, 2018, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the US under the Trump administration would be withdrawing from the UNHRC, citing an unnecessary bias towards Israel as well as disappointment in holding human rights abusers accountable for their actions.

Ambassador Nikki Haley as well as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited the reasoning behind the US withdrawal, pointing towards an unfair amount of attention towards Israel, the belief that the UNHRC ignores important human rights issues in other areas, and the belief that the UNHRC protects human rights abusers by allowing them membership. As of June 30, 2006, the UNHRC voted to have a review of alleged abuses by Israel as a permanent feature in council sessions. It has been condemned in 78 different resolutions since the creation of the council, more resolutions than the rest of the world combined. The US believes that the UNHRC disproportionately targets Israel in its resolutions and ignores human rights issues in the rest of the world, citing examples such as the violent crisis in Venezuela. The US also believes that the UNHRC protects countries which abuse human rights by allowing them membership into the UNHRC, citing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Venezuela, which the US believes to be hypocritical of the UNHRC.

The United Nations has expressed disappointment towards the US withdrawal.

Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric for UN Secretary General António Guterres has stated that Guterres would have preferred the US to remain a member nation. While some member nations of the UNHRC also believe the attention towards Israel is unfair, such as the UK, none have followed the US in withdrawing from the UNHRC yet. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated that while reforms in the UNHRC are necessary, the UNHRC is crucial to holding human rights abusers accountable. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US decision to withdraw, as he believes the UNHRC to be anti-Israel and hypocritical to protecting human rights. Groups such as the American Civil LIberties Union (ACLU) have criticized the move, believing that the Trump administration is leading an effort to violate basic human rights.



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