UK regrets U.S. exit from U.N. rights council

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Mr. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General

The UK has expressed regret over the Tuesday’s decision of the U.S. to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, said in a statement by the United Kingdom Mission to the UN, that Britain wants to see a reformed Council but would work for it from within.

“The United States’ decision to withdraw from the Human Rights Council is regrettable.

“We’ve made no secret of the fact that the UK wants to see reform of the Human Rights Council, but we are committed to working to strengthen the Council from within.”

The U.S., while announcing its withdrawal, said the “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”.

It also said the Council’s “membership includes authoritarian governments with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights records, such as China, Cuba, and Venezuela”.

“And the council’s continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable. Since its creation, the council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than against the rest of the world combined,” the U.S. said.

The UK said, however, that the Council was the best tool for the international community to address global impunity.

“Britain’s support for the Human Rights Council remains steadfast.

“It is the best tool the international community has to address impunity in an imperfect world and to advance many of our international goals.

“That’s why we will continue to support and champion it,” Johnson said.

The U.S. on Tuesday withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council accusing it of a “chronic bias against Israel.”

U.S. envoy to the UN Nikki Haley, who announced her country’s decision in Washington, slammed Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting U.S. efforts to reform the council.

She also criticized countries which shared U.S. values and encouraged Washington to remain but “were unwilling to seriously challenge the status quo.”

The U.S. is half-way through a three-year term on the main U.N. rights body and the Trump administration had long threatened to quit if the 47-member Geneva-based body was not overhauled.

“Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” said Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Haley also said the “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council was motivated by political bias, not by human rights.”

Washington’s withdrawal is the latest U.S. rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has hailed what he termed the “very important role” of the Human Rights Council, following U.S. withdrawal, citing alleged bias against Israel.

Guterres said he would have “much preferred” the U.S. remain.

In a statement issued by Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, Guterres said that the Geneva-based Human Rights Council was a part of the UN’s overall “Human Rights architecture”, which “plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide”.

The Human Rights Council is a 47-member inter-governmental body within the UN system, that not only seeks to promote and protect human rights, but also addresses alleged rights violations and makes recommendations on them.

It is a forum for discussing all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention, throughout the year, while the members are elected by the UN General Assembly.

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” the UN chief stated.