With reports that President Biden is considering reentering the U.S. into the UN Human Rights Council, it's time to remind ourselves why we left the council in the first place. Here's what former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said about the exit in 2018.
"For too long the human rights council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias," Haley said at the time. "The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks.
"Therefore, as we said we would do a year ago if we did not see any progress, the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council," she continued. "In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments; on the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."
Former Vice President Mike Pence approved the decision.
Today the U.S. took a stand against some of the world’s worst human rights violators by withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/KyICyXh3XI— Vice President Mike Pence Archived (@VP45) June 19, 2018
The likes of North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan sit on the UNHRC. Haley, Pence and others rightly noted that that's company we don't want to keep. The council has approved some outrageous measures, including their approval of China's crackdown in Hong Kong last July.
But in December 2019, Biden pledged that he would re-enter the U.S. into the council.
As president, I will take decisive steps to demonstrate that America is prepared to lead again — not just with the example of our power, but the power of our example. We will recommit ourselves to building a world based on fairness and opportunity for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, nationality or sexual orientation. We will rebuild American diplomatic capacity to support and defend human rights around the globe, including through international institutions. We will rejoin the UN Human Rights Council and work to ensure that body truly lives up to its values. We will stand up for the rights of women and girls, LGBTQ communities, persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, those living with disabilities, and other marginalized groups, and ensure that the assistance we provide reflects our values.
The Human Rights Watch released a statement earlier this month urging Biden to follow through on that pledge.
"Abroad, to better entrench human rights as a guiding principle, Roth said, Biden should affirm and then act on that principle even when it is politically difficult," the group writes. That would include, "Re-embracing the UN Human Rights Council, even though it criticizes Israeli abuses."
Before Biden considers their suggestion, Haley renewed her warnings about the council on Monday.
The UN Human Rights Council is a cesspool of political bias that makes a mockery of human rights. If Biden rejoins the council whose membership includes dictatorial regimes & some of the world’s worst human rights violators, it will fly in the face of our fight for human rights.— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) January 25, 2021