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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Trump's human rights council pullout imperils the vulnerable and persecuted

The US is shredding global norms in service of a violent Israeli regime

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley before announcing the US's withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. Toya Sarno Jordan / Reuters
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley before announcing the US's withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. Toya Sarno Jordan / Reuters

The US decision to pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council amid claims of an anti-Israeli bias could be seen merely as President Donald Trump’s latest act of multilateral sabotage. But this move will have grave and lasting consequences. It will further de-fang an already imperfect institution, embolden those who would wish it to fail and imperil the world’s most vulnerable and persecuted citizens. Once a muscular defender of human rights and the architect of the post-war UN-based international order, the US now joins Iran, North Korea and Eritrea as the only countries to refuse to participate in the 47-member council’s deliberations. The decision was roundly denounced by human rights agencies, foreign governments and US senators, including Democrat Chris Coons, who said the decision “sends a clear message that the Trump administration does not intend to lead the world when it comes to human rights”. It also comes amid global condemnation of Mr Trump’s policy of separating thousands of migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border in a programme declared “unconscionable” by UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain. This week’s events – dubbed "Trump's Katrina" after the presidential mistakes made in the wake of the 2005 hurricane – are a damning indictment of his America.

For Washington is shredding established global norms in service of an Israeli regime engaged in the ceaseless mistreatment of Palestinians. US ambassador the UN Nikki Haley called the council “a cesspool of political bias” in objection to its recognition of the "human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories". Consider that since March 30, the Israeli military has killed at least 132 unarmed Palestinians and wounded 13,000. Yesterday Gaza was relentlessly pounded by Israeli jets. That only compounds the misery inflicted by a daily occupation, the decade-long blockade of Gaza, the incarceration of hundreds of children and the seizure of Palestinian land.

The Trump administration’s vocal departure from the UNHRC legitimises Israel’s violence and weakens an institution which can only be as strong as the sum of its parts. The body might have been in need of reform but it now risks being entirely de-fanged. This is Mr Trump’s “America First” policy projected onto the world stage. By dismantling a carefully crafted global order, he further endangers the world’s most vulnerable people.

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