By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON D.C., United States — The United States is considering leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council. A final decision to withdraw would most likely include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, and President Trump.
According to sources connected with current U.S. officials, the council has been accused of being biased against Israel by pushing critical resolutions and issuing “scathing” statements about the country. The council drew criticism in 2012 for inviting a speaker from the Palestinian Hamas terror group to speak at a meeting.
Countries known for human rights violations, including China and Saudi Arabia, are members of the council. Russia was also a member until last year when it lost its seat after the U.N. General Assembly voted to remove it due to Moscow’s role in the Syrian conflict. A former U.S. State Department official commented that there are also questions regarding the council’s overall usefulness. Tillerson recently expressed skepticism about the council in recent meetings with State Department officials.
Last week, Haley criticized the council for failing to discuss the buildup of illegal Hezbollah weapons, strategies for defeating the Islamic State terrorist organization, and holding Bashar Assad accountable for the deaths of Syrian civilians.
The State Department has not directly commented on the rumored withdrawal, however spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that the “delegation will be fully involved in the work of the HRC session which [started] Monday.”
The website Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling a hypothetical withdrawal by the U.S. from the council “misguided and short-sighted.” U.N. Director of the website, Louis Charbonneau, predicted that the withdrawal might “significantly set back U.N. efforts to protect human rights around the world.” Charbonneau noted the U.S.’s crucial role in encouraging the council to establish commissions that helped uncover violations in North Korea and Syria and commented that withdrawal would hinder the U.S.’s influence in the international community.
Former President George W. Bush refused to join the council after it was created following the termination of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Former President Barack Obama, however, joined the council once he was elected.
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