World / Politics

Nikki Haley slams rights groups after U.S. allegedly 'theatrically' quits key U.N. council


U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday accused human rights groups of thwarting a U.S. push for changes to the U.N. Human Rights Council and contributing to Washington’s decision to quit the body.

In a letter sent to nongovernmental organizations, Haley complained that they had played a “deconstructive” role by refusing to support U.S. efforts to take Israel off the council’s agenda.

Haley on Tuesday announced that the United States was quitting the rights council, condemning the “hypocrisy” of its members and its alleged “unrelenting bias” against Israel.

“You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the US decision to withdraw from the council,” said Haley in the letter seen by AFP.

“You put yourself on the side of Russia and China, and opposite the United States, on a key human rights issue.”

Haley was referring to a letter by 18 rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to United Nations member-states in May expressing concern that a U.S. draft resolution at the General Assembly could weaken the rights council.

The rights groups had warned that the proposed changes could trigger “hostile amendments,” possibly from China and Russia, to undermine the work of the council, which monitors human rights crises worldwide.

“Such hostile proposals could enjoy broad support and the U.S. might not be able to stop them,” said Human Rights Watch’s U.N. director, Louis Charbonneau.

In the end the United States did not push ahead with its proposals at the General Assembly because of lack of support from allies who warned that changes could have unwanted consequences or might fail to win adoption.

HRW executive director Kenneth Roth argued that reforms were underway to improve the workings of the 47-nation Geneva-based council but that the United States “walked away from” that effort and chose instead to “theatrically” quit the council.

“By attacking and blaming NGOs for its own failure, the Trump administration is taking a page out of the book of some of the worst governments around the world,” said Charbonneau.

Haley had repeatedly threatened over the past year to quit the rights council unless there were reforms to its agenda and to the election of its members, which often run unopposed as a region’s candidate, regardless of their rights record.

Last year, the United States urged African nations to back away from supporting the candidacy of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the rights council, but the appeal fell on deaf ears.

Human rights groups had also raised concerns about giving the DRC a seat at the council, citing the violence in Kasai, the murder of two U.N. experts who were investigating mass graves there, and the arrests of scores of opposition demonstrators.