The United States Set to Leave the UN Human Rights Council Amid Domestic Immigration Controversy

By Stefan M. Kløvning

Washington D.C., International Relations – Amid a strongly polarized political climate following the Trump administration’s recent infamous policy to separate families of illegal immigrants at the border – which has by several outlets and commentators (Feinstein, Hayden, Guardian) been compared to Nazi Germany’s policies, as well as being condemned by all living US First Ladies – Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo will announce on Tuesday that they will retract the U.S. from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The decision is reasoned primarily based on the UN’s clear anti-Israel bias, like when the General Assembly voted for 20 resolutions against Israel in 2015, and only 3 against all other countries (Iran, Syria and North Korea) combined, and that the council has Israeli human rights violations as a permanent issue to address in every meeting, known as the ‘item 7’. Another critique is that a plethora of its members are known human rights violators, 14 of their members, for instance, are classified by Freedom House as ‘not free’, including Venezuela, Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia and others. On those grounds, Nikki Haley said last year they were reviewing their membership in the council and exclaimed that it was on a ‘relentless, pathological campaign’ against Israel, but it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the decision comes a day after the council’s leader Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian prince, denounced the administration’s no-tolerance immigration policy as ‘unconscionable.’ Haley further declared, ‘For our part, the United States will not sit quietly while this body, supposedly dedicated to human rights, continues to damage the cause of human rights,’ alluding to its systematic bias against Israel.

The move will label the United States as the first country that has ever dropped out from the 12-year-old council voluntarily, with only Libya having been thrown out seven years ago.

It also follows a general pattern in the Trump administration’s platform, having dropped out of the Paris climate accord, Iran Nuclear Deal, and the UN educational and cultural organization, as well as putting strict tariffs on imports and moving the United States embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. The US only entered the council in 2009 under Obama’s reign, so it’ll also be another of Obama’s decisions overwritten by Trump and his administration.

Leaving the council has, as expected, received its share of backlash, not only by those in favor of the council, but also those concerned about what the council will become after the United States leaves, as it, for instance, has had an important role in the recent months in pinpointing human rights violations in South Sudan, Cambodia, and Congo, and that Israel will be left worse off with its chief defender gone. Washington Post even points out that before the United States joined the council, half of its country-specific votes were against Israel, and that the resolutions critical of Israel dropped to one-fifth after they joined.