Human rights are sacrosanct

The USA is threatening to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council. How petty-minded can Trump get?

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who holds cabinet rank in President Donald Trump’s administration, has said that Washington will decide whether to withdraw from the Council after its three-week session in Geneva ends this month.

Many people feel that such a move is simply another example of the Trump Administration’s abdication of moral leadership at a time of increasing conflict and human rights violations. Similar to walking away from the Paris climate agreement.

The UN Human Rights Council speaks out in the face of violations worldwide and provides a forum for identifying, highlighting, and developing appropriate responses. It represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity and has a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.

It so happens that the Council’s members have taken a strong position against Israel’s continued occupation of territory seized in the 1967 Middle East war and its discriminatory treatment of Palestinians. Most countries in the UN system and international bodies consider the settlements illegal since they are built in areas Palestinians consider part of an eventual independent state.

In “U.S. warns it may pull out of U.N. human rights body over abuses, treatment of Israel” published today in The Washington Post, Anne Gearan identifies the key issue: “The United States accuses the Council of shielding the repressive regimes it should be condemning, allowing such regimes to join the body and then use it to thwart scrutiny. It is the same criticism that led former president George W. Bush to shun the council in 2006, a decision that Barack Obama reversed in his first year in office.”

She goes on to say that, “A U.S. withdrawal would have only symbolic effect, since the council has no enforcement powers, but would represent further U.S. disengagement from international organizations.”

Unfazed by Trump’s grumblings, the UN’s top human rights official marked the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories by calling for its end, insisting that such an outcome would benefit both sides. As reported in The Guardian (6 June 2017):

“Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the Jordanian prince and UN high commissioner for human rights, echoed the strong language of the UN secretary general, António Guterres, who earlier this week condemned the occupation’s ‘heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people’, which he said had ‘fuelled recurring cycles of violence and retribution’.”

Trump’s tantrums have previously focused on the media, health care, the justice department, travel bans, “sanctuary cities”, and climate change. Now that the United Nations Human Rights Council has hacked him off, he seeks to undermine an international body whose work and high minded principles are recognised and applauded the world over.

Just one week after his inauguration, in “Trump’s tantrums risk making his presidency a disaster” (The Times, 25 January 2017), Jenni Russell observed, “Trump has to get out of his delusionary narcissistic bubble and grow up fast or his plaintive, damaged ego will deliver disaster both for the nation and for himself.” There is little sign that the bubble is about to burst.



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