The United Nations Human Rights Council began its three-week session in Geneva this week as Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, warns the US may withdrawal if the council’s “Anti Israel” bias isn’t fixed. At June 6th, during a speech at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ambassador Haley stated the US plans to work with the Council to improve its major weaknesses. Haley noted that the Council has managed in shedding light on human violations in nations such as North Korea and Syria, but criticized the Council for its members own human rights violations.
The Human Rights Council is made up of 47 countries, and The Council members serve three-year terms. The Council’s mission is to expose human rights violations and adopt resolutions against the violators; while the Council has no real authority it still plays an important diplomatic role.
U.S. concerns about the nature of the council is not new under the Trump Administration. President George W. Bush boycotted the Council during his presidency, but President Obama reversed that decision during his tenure. In 2013, the election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Vietnam to the Council, all of which have extensive records of severe human rights violations, raised concerns among human rights organizations, but most groups have opposed U.S. withdrawal.
NGO Freedom House and six other groups expressed their concerns by writing to Haley and stating that the withdrawal of the US from the Council will make matters worse for the Israel and will weaken the Human Rights Council in holding violators accountable.
In her speech today, at the UN Human Rights Council, Haley declared that the Council has failed to address issues in nations such as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe, and Russia. She specifically compared Venezuela to Israel by stating: “It’s hard to accept that this Council has never considered a resolution on Venezuela and yet it adopted five biased resolutions, in March, against a single country, Israel,” she added. “It is essential that this council address its chronic anti-Israel bias if it is to have any credibility.”
Haley challenged the Council by stating that by turning a blind eye to human rights violations, the Council undermines its credibility. She remarked that the US has been a supporter of human rights from before the Council’s inception and will continue to be an advocate for it around the world. She challenged the Council to act with clarity and integrity instead of using the Council for political agendas.
The US Ambassador to the UN is determined to work with other like-minded states to change the Council and improve its effectiveness. Haley made several recommendations on how to improve the Council including requiring states nominated to become Council members show proof of meeting human rights standards before the Council can take a vote on them.
Haley also urged an end to the HRC’s policy of secret ballots for determining council membership. Haley stressed that the world should know which nations were supporting each other in council membership.
She stated that Agenda Item 7 should be removed, which causes Israel to be the subject of the human rights debate in each session yet the Council ignores the violations committed by nations such as Iran and Cuba. She argued that all nations should be held accountable to the same expectations under Agenda item 4, and Israel should not be singled out. Item 7 on the agenda has to do with violations against Palestine and other occupied territories whereas item 4 has to do with any form human rights violations that requires Council’s attention.
When asked by one of the audience if the US will commit to remaining on the UN Human Rights Council, Haley declared the US would not commit to remaining on the Council until it observed improvements.