TAG urges the US to continue supporting the UN Human Rights Council

By Together Against Genocide (TAG), Wednesday, June 07 2017

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had tough words for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) this week. There are two main reasons that the UNHRC is in the Trump administration’s crosshairs. Firstly, for allowing countries with poor human rights records like Venezuela, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia to become members. Secondly, for what the US perceives as a relentless campaign against Israel, encapsulated in the recent UN report complaining of ‘apartheid-style’ practices against Palestinians.

Haley stopped short of saying that the US would pull out of the UNHRC – a move that would surely reduce the organisation’s credibility and influence – but was clear that the US could pursue its human rights work outside the framework of the UNHRC if it fails to re-establish its legitimacy.

Speaking on behalf of Together Against Genocide, Andrew Thorpe-Apps said: “Whilst the UNHRC is imperfect and certain aspects of its work are undeniably politicised, fundamentally it remains an important forum for holding countries to account on their human rights records. The continued involvement of the US is key to ensuring that the UNHRC remains credible. Without American engagement there is a danger of the UNHRC becoming a mere talking shop.”

In the case of Sri Lanka, most of the recommendations made in Resolution 30/1 promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights have yet to be implemented. However, some progress has been made, and sessions of the UNHRC provide an ongoing opportunity to hold the Sri Lankan Government to account.

The Council’s 34th session earlier this year produced a number of strong resolutions and showed just what international solidarity can achieve. Examples included the strengthening of the ability of the UN to collect evidence of human rights violations in North Korea; the establishment of an independent fact-finding mission into alleged atrocities in Burma; and the renewal of the human rights commission in South Sudan. There was also the adoption of a strong resolution on Syria, condemning the besieging and bombarding of civilians, the use of chemical weapons, and the deliberate attack on an aid convoy, all of which were deemed to amount to war crimes.

This vital work will be more difficult if the US opts to take a back seat. As the UN’s human rights chief Zeid al-Hussein put it recently: “Are we all together – or do we fall together?”