In a move that should have come years ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose boss, President Trump, harbors few illusions about the United Nations, warned that the U.S. might well withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council unless the Council executes “considerable reform.”
As Foreign Policy (FP) reports, Tillerson wrote a letter to nine non-profit organizations threatening that the Human Rights Council is on borrowed time in implementing changes. Those organizations, 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, wrote to Tillerson on February 9 that they preferred for the U.S. to remain on the Council so the U.S. can forestall the consistent attacks on Israel.
A senior aide to Tillerson told FP, “If they don’t make these reforms, we’re going to question the value of our membership. We’re not taking withdrawal off the table.”
Tillerson wrote, “We may not share a common view on this, given the makeup of the 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 Human Rights Council was created in 2006; the George W. Bush administration refused to join because of the incessant attacks on Israel. But the Obama administration ignored the attacks and joined anyway in 2009.
Tillerson added that the U.S. will not leave immediately in order to “reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”
What Tillerson wants is to form a U.N. Commission of inquiry into atrocities in Syria and the support for U.N. special rapporteurs investigating Iran, North Korea, and Burma.
The U.N. Human Rights Council’s hostility toward Israel has been evident from the inception of the Council; between 2006 and 2014 the UNHRC released 103 resolutions, 56 focused on slamming Israel. The UNHRC held 21 special sessions addressing dire humanitarian crises around the world in that period; one revolved around Sudan, one addressed Sri Lanka, another Ivory Coast and another Libya, and seven targeted Israel.
In 2016, the UNHRC ended its month-long session in Geneva by condemning Israel five times more than any other of the 192 UN member states, including Syria, North Korea and Iran. Russia, Saudi Arabia and China were not even mentioned.
“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.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
In 2016, the UNHRC adopted a resolution requiring the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to compile a database of companies that were doing business in Israeli settlements in order to cut them off from doing business.