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United States Withdraws From Human Rights Council, Hypocrisy Prevails

United States Withdraws From Human Rights Council, Hypocrisy Prevails


The U.S. cited the HRC’s criticism of Israeli violence against Palestinians and the need for HRC members to increase their commitment to human rights as their reason for leaving. Though, the track record of U.S. foreign and domestic policy reveal the hypocrisy of their withdrawal.

In the News:

“Explicitly focusing on alleged anti-Israel bias the U.S. withdrew from further participation in the UN Human Rights Council. The only internationally credible basis for criticizing the HRC is its regrettable tendency to put some countries with the worst human rights records in leading roles, creating genuine issues of credibility and hypocrisy. Of course, such a criticism would never be made by the U.S. as it could only embarrass Washington to admit that many of its closest allies in the Middle East, and elsewhere have lamentable human rights records, and, if fairly judged, the U.S. has itself reversed roles since the year 2000, itself slipping into the category of the most serious human rights offenders. In this regard, its ‘withdrawal’ can be viewed as a self-imposed ‘suspension’ for falling short when it comes to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Undoubtedly, the U.S. was frustrated by its efforts to ‘reform’ the HRC according to its views of the UN agency should function, and blamed its traditional adversaries, Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, along with Egypt, with blocking its initiative. It also must not have welcome the HRC High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, for describing the separation of children from their immigrant parents at the Mexican border as an ‘unconscionable’ policy.

In evaluating this latest sign of American retreat from its prior role as global leader, there are several considerations that help us understand such a move that situates the United States in the same strange rejectionist corner it now shares with North Korea and Eritrea:

  • the fact that the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC occurred immediately after the Israeli border massacre, insulated from Security Council censure and investigation by a U.S. veto, is certainly part of political foreground. This consideration was undoubtedly reinforced by the HRC approval of a fact-finding investigation of Israel’s behavior over prior weeks in responding to the Great Return March border demonstrations met with widespread lethal sniper violence;
  • in evaluating the UN connection to Palestine it needs to be recalled that the organized international community has a distinctive responsibility for Palestine that can be traced all the way back to the peace diplomacy after World War I when Britain was given the role of Mandatory, which according to the League of Nations Covenant should be carried out as a ‘sacred trust of civilization.’ This special relationship was extended and deepened when Britain gave up this role after World War II, transferring responsibility for the future of Palestine to the UN. This newly established world organization was given the task of finding a sustainable solution in the face of sharply contested claims between the majority Palestinian population and the Jewish, mainly settler population.

Insight from Peace Science:

  • The U.S. is more likely to engage in a military campaign under the pretense of protecting human rights than for security reasons, such as threats to democracy or terrorist activity.
  • When host countries are less relevant to U.S. security interests, the presence of U.S. troops in their country can lead to improved human rights practices. When host countries are more central to U.S. security interests, respect for human rights stays the same, or even decreases.


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