WASHINGTON, June 20. /TASS/. The United States announced on Tuesday it was officially quitting the UN Human Rights Council, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told reporters.
Washington has repeatedly criticized the Council in the past, accusing it of bias against the United States and Israel. In 2017, Haley said that nations with poor human rights record must not be elected to the council.
"Therefore, as we said we would do a year ago, If we did not see any progress, the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council," she said.
"For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias," Haley continued. "Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded. Human rights abusers continue to serve on and be elected to the council. The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks."
The US diplomat described the UN HRC as "a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."
Nevertheless, she stressed that Washington’s move does not mean "a retreat from human rights commitments."
"Even as we end our membership in the Human Rights Council, we will keep trying to strengthen the entire framework of the UN engagement in human rights issues. And we will continue to strongly advocate a reform of the UN Human Rights Council. Should it become reformed, we would be happy to rejoin it," the US diplomat added.
In her speech, the US diplomat accused a number of nations of impeding the UN Human Rights Council reform.
"When we made it clear we would strongly pursue council reform, these countries came out of the woodwork to oppose it. Russia, China, Cuba, and Egypt all attempted to undermine our reform efforts this past year," she said.
Among other reasons for the US withdrawal, Haley named "chronic bias against Israel," its key ally.
US Secretary of Stake Michael Pompeo, who was also present during the announcement, described the HRC activities as "an exercise in shameless hypocrisy."
Commenting on the announcement, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric expressed regret about the US move.
"The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council. The UN's Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide," the spokesman said in a brief statement.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a Twitter post that the move was "disappointing, if not really surprising."
"Given the state of #HumanRights in today's world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back," he said.
In her turn, EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Maja Kocijancic said the decision "risks undermining the role of the US as a champion and supporter of democracy on the world stage."
"The European Union will nevertheless continue to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms, whether in multilateral fora or around the world, also by cooperating with the US whenever possible," she said in a statement.
UK Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson said the news was "regregttable."
"Reform necessary, but UK is here to stay - UN Human Rights crucial to holding states to account," he said in a brief message via Twitter.
In a statement released by his office on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Washington for the move, describing the HRC as the "hostile anti-Israeli organization which betrayed its mission to defend human rights."
Human Rights Watch said in a statement the US government’s decision will sideline the country from key global initiatives to protect human rights.
"The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy in which the US defends Israeli abuses from criticism above all else," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "By walking away, the US is turning its back not just on the UN, but on victims of human rights abuses around the world, including in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Myanmar. Now other governments will have to redouble their efforts to ensure that the council addresses the world’s most serious human rights problems."