US withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council symptom of deeper crisis

The Trump administration’s broader rejection of multilateralism and rule of law, its actual practices, and paralysis of other States, are the real issues, says the ICJ.

On the evening of 19 June, the United States of America announced it was formally abandoning its membership of the UN Human Rights Council.

“The withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council is symptomatic of its broader rejection of multilateralism and rule of law, and how it acts in practice, both at home and abroad,” said ICJ Secretary General Sam Zarifi in reaction.

The inhuman caging of thousands of migrant and refugee children, and turning a blind eye to the grave human rights violations in North Korea, are but two recent and glaring examples, along with a recent highly critical report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, following his visit to the US last year.

Even more concerning, the US retreat comes at the same time as openly racist and nationalist authoritarianism rises across Europe. Even where they are not immediately succeeding in coming to power, such movements are slowly paralyzing Europe at exactly the time its moderating or progressive influence on world affairs in general, and human rights in particular, is most needed.

The US in fact is cooperating in New York with the very same countries it publicly condemns, to cut the funding and mandate for the day-to-day human rights work of the UN – whether through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary General’s Rights up Front Initiative, or UN country offices. And many many other countries are complicit in that exercise by their silence.

With moves by other powerful States to seize and dilute the UN’s human rights machinery, it has never been more important for other States sincerely committed to defending human rights and the rule of law to step into the empty seats the US is leaving behind.

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