Visiting Geneva, US envoy Nikki Haley has slammed the makeup of the UN human rights council and its "anti-Israel bias." She also threatened US withdrawal if the council failed to rid itself of abusive regimes.
Haley delivered twin addresses Tuesday, first telling the council that violator nations should not be allowed seats, and then a university audience that the US could advance human rights outside the body "if it fails to change."
Jorge Valero, the UN-Geneva ambassador for conflict-torn Venezuela replied that the United States had "no moral authority" to lecture on human rights.
Challenged by a questioner during her address at Geneva's Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Haley said the Trump administration was not "gonna commit today whether we're gonna stay in or out of the Human Rights Council."
Haley reiterated US concerns about what she termed the council's "chronic anti-Israel bias," epitomized by a regular council agenda item known as Item 7.
Her earlier speech, directly to the council, with 47 rotating members, was the first by an American UN ambassador since its creation in 2006. It was boycotted by the past Bush administration but obtained a seat in 2009 under Barack Obama.
Membership reform urged
Haley urged the council to reform its seating by switching to an election process within the UN General Assembly - based on a nation's record - to replace the council's existing regional nomination system.
Singling out Venezuela, she said "it should voluntarily step down from its seat "until it can get its own house in order."
She also called for strong council resolutions on abuses in Syria, Eritrea, Belarus, Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Congo, at its current session.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein also upbraided Venezuela and other council members, including Egypt, the Philippines and Burundi.
"Most astonishingly, despite having been elected to this council in 2015, Burundi continues to commit some of the most serious human rights violations dealt with by this council," Zeid said.
China had let in rights monitors but they had not been able to move freely, the Jordanian said.
And, in veiled references to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Zeid decried the behavior of strong-arm politicians.
"When thug-like leaders ride to power, democratically or otherwise, and openly defy not only their own laws and constitutions, but also their obligations under international law, where is their shame?" Zeid asked.
In Washington, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) director, Jamil Dakwar, said it was hard to take Haley seriously on human rights "in the light of Trump administration actions like the Muslim ban and immigration crackdowns."
ipj/kms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)