The US government under President Donald Trump wants to resign from UN Human Rights Council. The US had been threatening to leave for a long time. They call for reform and accuse body of Geneva-based panel of being Antiisrael. However, US government continues to work with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Florian Irminger is a member of Executive Board of Human Rights House Foundation in Geneva. He suspects domestic political reasons for move.
Online Time: Mr Irminger, United States will withdraw from UN Human Rights Council, announced UN Ambassador of Americans, Nikki Haley. The United States did not want to participate in founding of Council 2006 under President George W. Bush. Why?
Florian Irminger: Already at that time, John Bolton, today's security advisor to Trump government, had a major role as UN ambassador to United States. He will also now in Trump government support position of Nikki Haley, who has been saying for a year that Human Rights Council does not represent American interests.
Online Time: The US wanted to enforce 2006 that it would not be too easy to get into human Rights Council that every new member needs a two-thirds majority in UN General Assembly when he votes. However, simple majority vote has prevailed, so only half of UN members have to agree. The Americans say this makes it too easy for wrong states to come in.
Irminger: I do not really think that is a credible argument. The United States is sufficiently strong in United Nations to prevent certain States in Human Rights Council. There are many countries that have nothing to look for in Council. But against Saudi Arabia, for example, Americans did not say anything – y could even take a central position in Council – but US has problems with Cuba or Venezuela.
Online Time: How can we prevent countries in Council from ignoring human rights?
Irminger: NGOs, such as Amnesty International or US, want to see a kind of human rights analysis of applicant country in advance for election to Council. We also want to see situation in countries concerned being observed in three years of membership of Council. The US does not want that, y want to control who in ir view can be in Council and who is not. That's not how it should work.
Online Time: But why exactly does US now stand out?
Irminger: I have impression that this is above all a domestic policy decision. Last year it was announced that Americans want a reform of Human Rights Council. But y have never done anything to find any consensus. The US Republicans were always against Human Rights Council.
Online Time: What was motivation of Obama administration to have 2009 n vote for Human Rights Council?
Irminger: They wanted to show that y are back in multilateral game and that y want to enforce what y believe in. They had created a special report on freedom of protest and assembly, first to do so. The Obama administration has also always worked hard against unilateral Israel focus of Human Rights Council. The number of resolutions against Israel has declined significantly during this time – now it is becoming more.
Online Time: Does credibility of Human Rights Council suffer from disproportionate Israel fixation? Finally, in Council, re are states whose government imprisons homosexuals or directs opposition.
Irminger: The prestige of Human Rights Council, at least in countries that need its support, has not, in my view, suffered from Israel fixation. The credibility of Council will suffer if it does not take care of human rights violations in individual states. There is much more visible in public that, for example, an unjust state like Saudi Arabia is suddenly occupying important positions in Council. There are also detailed studies by independent experts on human rights situation in North Korea, Belarus and Eritrea. Such things are going on in discussions about US membership.
Online Time: What does it mean for Human Rights Council when US exits?
Irminger: The Human Rights Council will no longer have as much power within United Nations system without United States. It can also happen that or states say that y are no longer seeking work in Council. The United States can develop a diplomatic force in Council, like no or country in world. This has been seen, for example, in ir commitment to human rights in Belarus or in Crimea.
For years without United States, strong countries such as France, Great Britain and Germany have to use diplomatically for Council. and small democratic States, such as Uruguay, Botswana, or Switzerland, of course, do not have power like US, but an interest that a multilateral idea like Human Rights Council should work.Updated Date: 21 June 2018, 12:02