Blurb: In May, amid the use of live fire by Israeli forces against unarmed civilians during the Great Return March, the UNHRC had called for sending an observer mission to Gaza.
The Dawn News/ June 22, 2018
President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of the US from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) citing its ‘anti-Israeli bias’. The ‘not-so-surprising’ decision comes close to the complete isolation of the US at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and Security Council (UNSC) on the violence perpetrated by Israel. At the UNGA, 120 countries voted in favour of a resolution condemning the use of excessive force by Israel against Palestinians during the Great Return March. Only six countries voted alongside the US and Israel. In the 15 member UNSC, the US was the only country to vote against a similar resolution.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement at the state department on Tuesday, “For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.”
In May, amid the use of live fire by Israeli forces against unarmed civilians during the Great Return March, the UNHRC had called for sending an observer mission to Gaza. Over 100 Palestinians were shot dead and over 3,000 injured by Israeli snipers during the 45-day series of protests.
In 2009, the UNHRC resolution established a United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (Goldstone Report) that looked into the atrocities during the Gaza war. The report accused Israeli forces of commiting crimes against humanity.
Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under Item 7 on the agenda. Among the reforms that the US was demanding was the removal of Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.
The decision by the US government to leave the council also comes just a day after UNHRC chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein criticised the Trump administration for separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border, calling the zero tolerance policy of the US government ‘unconscionable’ and likening it to child abuse.
The UN Human Rights Council was established in 2006, replacing the disbanded Human Rights Commission. It consists of 47 members, elected by the UN General Assembly with a specific number of seats allocated for each region. Members serve for three-year terms and can serve only two terms in a row.
The US, under the George W Bush administration, had decided against joining the council in 2006. It joined only in 2009 and served only half of its third term of three years.
The council meets three times every year to examine human rights abuses and violations taking place around the world. Its resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority. It has started investigations in Syria, North Korea, Myanmar and South Sudan, among other countries.
With the decision, the United States becomes the first ever member country to withdraw from the council. This move also follows recent US withdrawals from international multilateral engagements since the election of Donald Trump as US president. The US withdrew from the Paris climate change agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the UN education and cultural organisation (UNESCO) in this period.