The United Nations Human Rights Council is either proof that humorless diplomatic apparatchiks do indeed have a sense of humor or that something is seriously broken with the U.N. mechanism.
The UNHRC essentially serves one major function: wholesale grousing about the state of Israel. That probably shouldn’t surprise you when you see some of the defenders of human rights that are currently or have previously sat on the Council. The group currently features wholesale human rights violators like China, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Cuba, and Viktor Orban’s Hungary isn’t far off that gold standard.
Libya sat on the body during the reign of Gadhafi, as has Evo Morales’ Bolivia. There are innumerable other nations on the rostrum that have a questionable dedication to democracy in human rights. In short, if you were trying to assemble a body of nations that would be an affront to human rights, you could do far worse than the motley crew the U.N. has assembled to protect them.
For the next few years, the United States was expected to be one of the two states selected to the committee from “Western European and Other Nations.” If U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has her way, however, that arrangement isn’t going to last very long.
According to a report from Reuters, the United States is expected to withdraw from the UNHRC, citing the body’s refusal to undertake serious reforms to how it works. While it’s unclear when the withdrawal would take place, given that the Council is session is set to convene in Geneva this Monday, one source said it would be “imminent.”
The United States had requested that the body address its “chronic anti-Israel bias” — the only standing committee in the Human Rights Council is one dedicated to exploring the alleged knaveries committed by the Jewish state in Palestine — and some apparatus for keeping chronic human rights violators off of the Council.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the the United States would be boycotting the Human Rights Council. The George W. Bush administration boycotted it for several years before — surprise, surprise — the Obama administration rejoined in 2009.
The primary concern with the United States leaving the Council would be that Israel would have less support on the HRC. Just last month, Australia and the United States were the only two countries on the 47-member panel to vote no on a motion to conduct an investigation of how Israel handled Palestinian protests/riots in Gaza, a motion which accused the Jewish state of excessive force.
On the other hand, when you have 47 members on a panel and 45 of them are going to vote that way, exactly what good is the United States doing lending the panel legitimacy by its presence, especially when it has always been stacked with anti-Israel voices?
In November, Haley made it clear that the United States would be walking away if changes weren’t made.
“We’ve made clear that the Human Rights Council will either adopt these reforms or the United States will leave and fight for human rights in other forms,” Haley said. “We don’t want to walk away, but we’re ready to if these changes aren’t made.”
In March of 2017, the U.S. delegation also walked out of a UNHRC meeting as Israel came up on the agenda, yet another sign that the Trump administration viewed the Council as the joke it so clearly is.
Changes, however, weren’t to come. Part of the problem rested with the European Union, where Belgium felt that urgent situations in all countries — including Israel — should always have a place on the agenda. One wonders why this was a stumbling block, considering that Israel is the only country on the agenda, unless their reasoning was a thinly designed pleasantry meant to wallpaper over anti-Israel sentiment.
One source in Geneva disputed the characterization, noting, “We are still moving ahead with our engagement for the coming session.”
However, another source said that a withdrawal was “imminent.”
If the United States were to withdraw, Swiss Ambassador Valentin Zellweger said that it “will have a profound impact on the Council. If they withdraw, we can expect significant consequences.”
Citing the “leadership role” the Americans played in the Council, he added that, “Unfortunately I agree with them that not all members fulfil the (membership) criteria.”
That was something that could have been fixed. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to. That’s why it’s high time for the United States to leave a desperately broken body.
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