Opinion: US withdrawal from Human Rights Council a major setback to human rights commitment

Posted on Jun 20 2018 - 4:24pm by Ethel Mwedziwendira

The United States’ announcement to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council dismissing it as both a “cesspool of political bias” for its anti-Israel stance, and its failure to recognize human rights abuse elsewhere abdicates the U.S.’ role in being an advocate for those in need.

The decision to withdraw came days after the Trump administration received backlash for separating children and parents at the US-Mexico border, which has been referred to as a humanitarian crisis. But, it also comes at a time when America’s leadership is failing. A time when this administration’s foreign policy has positioned itself to stand alone on global key issues.

The Trump administration has pulled out of the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal, further parading how it is and will continue to dismantle diplomatic relations.

The 12-year old UN Human Rights Council aims to promote and protect human rights across the world and investigate alleged human rights violations. The United States joined the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 under the Obama administration because of its ability to advocate for international human rights. The U.S. deliberated joining under the George W. Bush administration and in 2005, then-UN Ambassador John Bolton lobbied the nation’s leaders to avoid membership.

Since joining both the the United Nations and UN Human Rights Council, the U.S. has always been a global leader in development, a supporter of human rights and an active participant in both organizations. This council is an organization that has investigated violations in Myanmar, Syria, South Sudan and Yemen while also addressing major issues within the LGBTQ community, discrimination against disabled people and violations of women’s rights. So, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s comment on its failure to recognize human rights abuse elsewhere is fallacious.

There is great irony within the U.S. withdrawing from the council. First, it’s clear that the Trump administration is seeking to further support Israel’s contentious stance at a global level, especially ahead of the unveiling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. For years the country of Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza through institutionalized discrimination and the abuse of Palestinian rights. According to Human Rights Watch, the country has repeatedly violated international law, through instances of abusive detention and unlaw killings to the closure of Gaza. Lastly, the Trump administration’s decision to separate migrants families is a human rights violation itself, and the measure is inhumane in the sense that it violates children’s rights and international law.

When the United States was an active participant in the council, it was culprit in the track record that the council has kept in investigating human rights abuses. Moreover, in 2011, with the support of the United States, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution in what was called a “historical step” in identifying LGBTQ rights as human rights.

By forfeiting its seat on the UN Human Rights Council, this administration will continue to support the actions of countries like Israel, North Korea and Russia, which do not support American values nor universal human rights. This withdrawal has been a major loss for the U.S.’ commitment to human rights and freedom. It comes at a time when the world needs more human rights and a stronger UN in order to continue the global fight for the protection and promotion of those rights. It is important now, more than ever, for the U.S. to strengthen its leadership and help protect the rights of the most vulnerable, two objectives this current administration is failing to prioritize.

Ethel Mwedziwendira is a senior journalism and political science major from McKinney, TX.