Foreign Minister Soini: US departure from UN Human Rights Council 'a setback'

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announce America's withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council at the Department of State

Foreign Minister Soini: US departure from UN Human Rights Council 'a setback'

Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump's United Nations ambassador, made the announcement Tuesday, calling the body a "cesspool of political bias".

But human rights groups voiced fresh complaints about the body in 2013, after China, Russia, Saudia Arabia, Algeria and Vietnam were elected members.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the United States move, branding the council "a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights".

"We've been working with many member states to improve the human rights council" said Truscott.

Rep. Eliot Engel, the House Foreign Affairs top Democrat released a statement on Tuesday that showcases widespread condemnation of the organization throughout the American Senate.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from New York, Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, said: "Unfortunately the U.S. is placing protecting Israel from criticism for its abuses over all else".

According to the Washington Post, the United States could have stayed on the Council as a nonvoting observer.

But there are credible arguments and debates over how the United States, for now the world's most powerful nation, should protect human rights. Born of a recognition that the United Nations needed to move beyond the East-West divide that had hampered effective progress on human rights, states agreed in 2006 both to widen and deepen the agenda for cooperation.

Plus, it's obsessed with bashing Israel, condemning the Jewish state 70 times on various trumped-up charges over the last 12 years, far more attention than it's given to actual human-rights violations in the entire rest of the world.

But as long as the rest of the civilized world clings to these organizations - even if it demands reforms, as the United Kingdom did - they will not only continue to exist but also enjoy a great deal worldwide legitimacy, even without the USA administration. "Because of our seat at the table, we've been able to give voice to the voiceless around the world while fighting for the council's fair treatment of our allies like Israel". "The Trump administration's withdrawal is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy: Defending Israeli abuses from criticism takes precedence above all else", he said.

The announcement of the withdrawal comes only one day after the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights slammed the Trump administration for the "unconscionable" separation of children from their parents. Member states are elected by the UN General Assembly; it is now unclear when and how a replacement for the U.S. will be selected, or whether formally the USA will remain an observer until December 31, 2019.

The move will simply remove remaining American leverage and influence, further undermining the interests of the U.S. and Israel and empowering those who oppose them.

Ms Haley berated the groups for not supporting proposed USA changes to the UNHRC, saying they "sought to undermine" them and worked "on the side of Russian Federation and China, and opposite the United States". And the move is also unprecedented, because the the first country to leave the council without being forced out.

But David Smith from the United States Studies Centre in Sydney says it's not the first time the U.S. has made such a move - it also withdrew from the council during the George W. Bush administration.

Citing the 1951 refugee convention, created in response to the millions of Europeans who fled violence during the second world war, Egeland said: "We need to remind ourselves when Europe was full to the brim of our own refugees, we told the world we need the right to asylum".

Many politicians echoed the Obama administration's reasons for joining the council when speaking out against the decision.

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