Wrong move by US to quit rights body
President Donald Trump should reflect on whether he is really serving the interests of abuse victims by quitting UN platform for defending their interests
Thanks to the inclusion of serious rights abusers, the membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council has often made a mockery of the qualities and values it is supposed to represent.
This is not about to change. The inclusiveness of the UN, however perverse the results at times, is fundamental to the concept of a multilateral approach to preventing conflict.
It is better to try to keep differences in-house than to weaken the unity of an organisation already accused of irrelevance from time to time. After all, few countries have unblemished human rights records or can claim all their friends do.
But to maintain credibility, the UN body needs leading member nations to take the high moral ground and call out the worst abuses, even if that means being called out in turn for hypocrisy. That is why the United States, which generally has a proud record of defending human rights, is wrong to have withdrawn from the council.
We cannot agree with the claim that America’s commitment to upholding rights would not allow it to remain part of a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights”.
The cloak of respectability that the council offers serial rights abusers may seem insufferable, but if every country followed the US example, it would do nothing for their victims.
As Sophie Richardson – China director at Human Rights Watch – says, the US action has undermined the efforts of rights groups around the world that rely on the support of global organisations, which the US should be working to strengthen.
Some say it changes the balance of the group by removing a critic of China. But Beijing expressed regret at Washington’s decision, with its anti-corruption agency rightly saying it jeopardises America’s image as a defender of human rights.
Far from being a reason to quit, the presence of serious rights abusers on the council is a reason for rights defenders to be strongly represented.
Meanwhile, the US still has some rehabilitation to do on its own reputation for upholding rights, after controversy over the treatment of detainees in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
US President Donald Trump should reflect on whether he is really serving the interests of rights abuse victims by quitting a platform for defending their interests.