Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has sent a clear and decisive message to the United Nations Human Rights Council. If the Council does not reform, he warns, the United States is withdrawing as a member.
In an exclusive report on ForeignPolicy.com by Colum Lynch and John Hudson, Tillerson gave the ultimatum in a letter to human rights groups and other advocates within the United Nations. He made it clear the Trump administration has no more patience for the politically-motivated actions of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In recent years, the 47-member council has actively attacked and condemned Israel’s actions to defend itself from terrorists. At the same time, it has ignored true human rights violations in the Middle East, China, and North Korea. In fact, a number of countries with questionable human rights records (including China and Saudi Arabia) have seats on the council.
From the ForeignPolicy.com report.
Tillerson, in his letter to the U.N. advocates and human rights groups, said that while the United States “continues to evaluate the effectiveness” of the Council, it remains skeptical about the virtues of membership in a human rights organization that includes states with troubled human rights records such as China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
“We may not share a common view on this, given the makeup of the membership,” Tillerson told the organizations, who have urged continued U.S. membership. “While it may be the only such organization devoted to human rights, the Human Rights Council requires considerable reform in order for us to continue to participate.”
The nine groups advocating continued U.S. membership — which include the Better World Campaign, Freedom House, the Committee For Human Rights in North Korea, and the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights — argued in a February 9 letter to Tillerson that the United States can more easily shield Israel from unfair attacks if it has a seat at the table. The Council, they say, has also provided a venue for holding the world’s worst rights abusers, including Syria and North Korea, accountable for their crimes.
The George W. Bush administration refused to join the Council in 2006, the year it was created, due to concerns about the treatment of Israel. The Obama administration reversed that decision in 2009, viewing membership as a way of reforming the organization from the inside and not letting the Israel issue diminish U.S. influence in a range of other areas.
No time frame for a possible withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council has been given. The report stresses, however, that a move could come soon.