The unfortunate decision of the US government to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council comes amid significant criticism of US human rights violations, including separating immigrating families at the southern border, increasing oppression of the poor and people of color, systemic law enforcement crimes, and escalating institutionalized racism throughout the nation. The US also continues to face sharp critique for undermining institutions that protect education, health, safety, and the environment while supporting attacks on the rights of women and LGBTQ people.
Many observers throughout the world are viewing this withdrawal not as sign of strength but rather as defensive, pseudo-face saving and xenophobic paranoia. According to the US Human Rights Network (USHRN), US civil society is not deterred. If anything, our presence here in Geneva this week for the report of the UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and our collective, continued vigilance in pursuing all legitimate and still binding domestic and international human rights provisions, will have even greater strategic impact within the current UN framework.
"While the Human Rights Council--and the U.S. participation in it--was not perfect, both the U.S. and the world are worse off for our withdrawal”, stated Eric Tars, USHRN Vice-Chair. Tars noted that “when the U.S. diminishes the concept of universal accountability for human rights violations, it emboldens human rights violators, both at home and abroad."
Rosalee Gonzalez, Acting Executive Director of the USHRN had this to say: "We appreciate the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ recent statement of concern regarding the racist and inhumane policy of the Trump Administration which has resulted in the separation of over 2300 children from their families with no apparent plan for reunification.” Read the full USHRN statement on this human rights issue here.
The USHRN confirms that the US is still subject to treaty reviews despite withdrawing from the HRC. The issue is that those treaty body reviews will be delayed if the US does not submit its required reports, as is currently the case since the US has yet to submit its currently overdue country report on racial discrimination, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which was due last November (2017). Hence, continued US refusal to participate can slow down the human rights treaty compliance review process substantially. However, the USHRN and its 300 member-organizations report that civil society remains committed to strengthening a growing people-centered US human rights movement. The US government’s announced withdrawal from the Human Rights Council only spurs us to even greater determination and unwavering resolve.