By Lesley Wroughton and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will announce on Tuesday that the United Sates is pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, a Trump administration source told Reuters.
The United States is half-way through a three-year term on the main U.N. rights body and had long threatened to quit if it was not reformed, accusing the 47-member Geneva-based body of being anti-Israel.
Reuters reported last week that activists and diplomats said talks with the United States on reforms had failed to meet Washington’s demands, suggesting that the Trump administration would quit.
Washington’s pullout would be the latest U.S. rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.
It also comes as the United States faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its “unconscionable” policy.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment until a U.S. decision was announced, but added: “The Secretary-General is a strong believer in the human rights architecture of the U.N. and the active participation of all states.”
When the Human Rights Council was created in 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration shunned the body.
Then under President Barack Obama the United States was elected to the body for a maximum two consecutive terms on the council by the U.N. General Assembly. After a year off, Washington was re-elected in 2016 for its current third term.
In March 2011, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously suspended Libya’s membership in the council because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. But U.N. officials said no member has withdrawn.
Haley said a year ago that Washington was reviewing its membership and called for reform and elimination of a “chronic anti-Israel bias.” The body has a permanent standing agenda item on suspected violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories that Washington wants removed.
“The U.N. Human Rights Council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel,” said Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth.
The council last month voted to probe killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force. The United States and Australia cast the only “no” votes. Israel’s ambassador in Geneva castigated the council for “spreading lies against Israel.”
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and James Dalgleish)