Sometimes, the best way to get someone’s attention is to stop giving them yours. That was certainly the case in Switzerland yesterday. When President Trump’s team announced that it was quitting the U.N. Human Rights Council, the world noticed all right. But, what most people want to know is: will the U.N. do anything about it?
As far as most people were concerned, America’s withdrawal was a long time coming. Every president since George W. Bush has questioned the legitimacy of a Human Rights Council full of human rights abusers. How can anyone take this body seriously when it counts some of the world’s most oppressive countries — Cuba, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Afghanistan, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and others – as members? “Human rights violators continue to serve on and be elected to the council,” Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley explained. “The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny.”
Back in 2006, when the U.N. formally changed the group’s name from “commission” to “council,” members fought over what the criteria should be for membership. Obviously, it should have gone without saying that the countries’ human rights records should have been priority number one. Instead, any common sense test fell by the wayside, making the council’s current composition a mockery of human decency. Even President Obama pushed for membership reform — to no avail. Now, the number of HRC nations who are “partly free” (12) or “not free” (14) actually outnumber the nations who are free and democratic (21). That means that some of the world’s worst actors are now voting members on an issue of dignity that they neither value nor practice! Fox, meet henhouse.
No wonder Haley thinks “the Human Rights Council isn’t worthy of its name.” If anything, she went on, it’s a “cesspool of political bias” and accused the group of “politicizing and scapegoating countries with positive human rights records.” So, after 10 years of putting up with this farce, the United States is walking away — and taking a lion’s share of the group’s credibility with it.
“We have no doubt,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters, “that there was once a noble vision for this council.” “But today we need to be honest: The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights. Worse than that, the Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself.” Together with the Haley, the president gave the U.N. 17 months to clean up the council’s mess — particularly as it relates to Israel.
For most of its modern existence, the UNHRC has been the world’s favorite club to beat over the head of the Jewish state. As Anne Bayefsky points out, “The council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on Earth, and nothing condemning almost 90 percent of the world’s states.” Its “continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” Pompeo insisted. Yet, as our own Lt. General Jerry Boykin pointed out on “Washington Watch” last night, this is the same group that wants to turn every negative comment of Islam into “hate speech.”
America shouldn’t have to join an international club to prove it’s serious about human rights. President Trump has already shown that in his appointment of Ambassador at Large for Religious Liberty Sam Brownback, Ambassador Haley, Secretary Pompeo, and in his human rights admonitions to North Korea, Nigeria, and other nations. To the critics who say this decision shows our lack of sincerity on the issue, Haley fires back: “On the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”
“Almost every country agrees with us that the Human Rights Council needs dramatic changes, but no other country has the courage to join our fight. … We gave them opportunity after opportunity and many months of consultations and yet they would not take a stand, unless it was behind closed doors,” she said. The U.S. “will continue to strongly advocate for reform of the Human Rights Council,” and that “should it be reformed, we would be happy to rejoin it.”
Until then, we applaud President Trump for showing the kind of fearless leadership we’ve come to admire about this administration. This White House has broken every paradigm of politics, diplomacy, and policy in its young term, and America — and the world — are stronger for it.
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