What It Means for the U.S. to Quit the UN Human Rights Council

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

After months of threatening to remove the U.S. from the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, announced the country’s removal from the council, according to CNN. During the announcement, Haley accused “the body of bias against US ally Israel” and claimed the council failed “to hold human rights abusers accountable.”

The announcement came one day after the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called separating children from parents at the US-Mexico border “unconscionable,” according to CNN.

What is the UN Human Rights Council?

Created in 2006, the council is “responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them,” according to the council’s website. The council meets at the UN office in Geneva, Switzerland.

“All countries at the United Nations take part in the work of the Human Rights Council,” but only 47 — now, 46 without the U.S. — make decisions, according to the council’s website.

Council a ‘cesspool of political bias’

Haley and other critics claim countries who abuse human rights in their countries use membership on the council as a way to escape punishment.

“For too long […] the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said during the announcement.

How Mike Pence responded

Mike Pence speaks at the vice presidential debate.

Mike Pence | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Following the announcement, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a statement, according to CNN. Here are highlights from  “[…] By elevating and protecting human rights violators and engaging in smear campaigns against democratic nations, the UNHRC makes a mockery of itself, its members, and the mission it was founded on. […] For years, the UNHRC has engaged in ever more virulent anti-American, and anti-Israel invective and the days of U.S. participation are over.”

How the UN responded to country’s withdrawal

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, according to CNN. “The UN’s Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.”

Charitable groups also expressed their disappointment with the government’s decision to remove the U.S. from the council.

Trump has withdrawn U.S. from other agreements

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has removed the country from an international body or agreement. The administration has pulled U.S. involvement from the “Paris climate accords, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” according to CNN.

So, what does this mean for the U.S.?

The U.S. is still a member of the United Nations although the country is no longer on the Human Rights Council. The “withdrawal is likely to renew criticism that the Trump administration places less value on human rights than its predecessors,” according to CNN. The removal from the council also means the U.S. won’t have any decision-making power on the council regarding any human rights violations.

“The decision by the Americans will have a profound impact on the council. If they withdraw, we can expect significant consequences,” Valentin Zellweger, Swiss ambassador, told The Guardian before the government announced the country’s removal from the council. What the ‘significant consequences’ will be, are still unclear.

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