US quits UN Human Rights Council

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The US has pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it a “hypocritical and self-serving body”.

Established in 2006, the Geneva-based institution has long been criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to to become members. However, activists say the council is a useful tool for monitoring and addressing human rights issues around the world, and the US withdrawal could significantly hinder its efforts.

US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced their decision to pull the US out of the UNHRC at a joint press conference. They described the council as a “cesspool of political bias” and a “poor defender of human rights” for its constant criticism of Israel’s actions in Palestine and inability to address issues of abuses by other non-Western states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Israel was quick to praise the US’ decision, but UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he would have “much preferred” the US to remain in the council and UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the decision “disappointing”.

The withdrawal is the Trump administration’s latest move against the multilateral system that has defined the global diplomatic order since the Second World War, following previous decisions to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Accords and constant threats to withdraw from NATO.

It comes amid fierce criticism of Donald’s Trump’s policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border as a “deterrent” to those thinking of crossing the border illegally. Trump has attempted to deflect blame for the “cruel and inhuman” policy onto the Democrats by lying to the American public at a number of press conferences, but others in his administration have celebrated the policy as showing strength on the thorny issues of immigration.

US authorities say 2,342 children were forcibly separated from 2,206 parents between 5 May to 9 June amid a “zero-tolerance” crackdown on illegal immigration brought in by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The UNHRC has 47 members, selected every 12 months by the UN General Assembly for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis, with 13 seats for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean, and seven for the Western Europe and Others Group.
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