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"For too long, the human rights council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias," US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikky Haley said in the statement about the withdrawal of the United States from the UN Human Rights Council. She said that disproportionate focus and the endless hostility towards Israel are clear proof that the council is motivated by politics, not by human rights.
The proposals for reforming the council were voiced a long time ago, the body itself has been severely criticized from the very beginning of its creation.
The US decision to withdraw was not a surprise. First of all, due to the constant criticism of the council by President Donald Trump, including because of the position of its members regarding Israel.
Writing in the Washington Post, she complained that the council had passed more than 70 resolutions against Israel but just seven against Iran.
But this is not only about Israel. Recently, tension in US-HRO relations has been consistently high. Although there has been no particular long-term warming in their relationship, in fact, it did not happen.
In order to better understand the situation, it is worth remembering what the HRO is.
What is the UN Human Rights Council?
The UN Human Rights Council was created to replace a commission with a similar name. The first meeting of the UNHRC was held on June 19, 2006. Now the meetings are held three times a year.
The resolution on the creation of the Council reads: "Council members must maintain the highest standards in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights." A group of 47 selected countries from different global regions (Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, etc.) has been working on the council for three years. An advisory committee of 18 experts operates under the council.
UNHRC may establish and abolish so-called special procedures - posts of rapporteurs, experts or working groups on specific human rights or human rights issues in a particular territory.
Why did the US decide to withdraw from the council?
Initially, US relations and council were far from ideal. In 2006, the States refused to join the UNHRC, arguing that, like the predecessor commission, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recognized countries with "dubious human rights."
States joined the council only three years later, in 2009, under President Barack Obama.
In 2013, the HRС was criticized by the human rights organizations because of the election to the council of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Vietnam.
In parallel, the theme of "Israel and the HRC" continued to develop. Israel is the only country on which the standing agenda item is distributed. Its treatment of the Palestinians is being studied, and Israel finds this exploration one-sided.
Israel has even boycotted one of the council's reviews. Israel’s issue has become one of the key reasons for the US withdrawal from the council. The immediate reason is the last few resolutions.
In particular, it is a decision on 18 May "on the urgent direction of an independent international commission to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem."
The occasion is the events in the Gaza Strip, namely: clashes between the Israeli military and the Palestinians after the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Another reason is the criticism of US President Donald Trump's migration policy by the HRC, which obviously has become a serious irritant to the United States.
Response to the US decision
The EU has expressed its concern. "The decision could undermine the role of the US as a leader and supporter of democracy in the world arena," the statement said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not support the decision of the United States.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that this decision was "deplorable."
The American Civil Liberties Union stated that the Trump administration is conducting "concerted, aggressive efforts to violate basic human rights."
The New York group Human Rights Watch condemned the US decision to leave the council and called President Trump's human rights policy "one-dimensional." At the same time, the US decision was supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He called it "courageous."