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US withdraws from UN Human Rights Council

Announcement by Ambassador Nikki Haley comes a month after body votes to probe killings of Palestinians in Gaza.

Nikki Haley

The United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nikki Haley, Washington's ambassador to the UN, has announced.

Halley made the announcement on Tuesday in Washington, DC.

"We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights," she said.

The move comes after the council voted last month to probe killings of Palestinian protesters in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force.

It also follows intense criticism faced by the US for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its child separation policy.

"The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable," al-Hussein said.

Haley said a year ago that Washington was reviewing its membership of the Human Rights Council, and called for reform and elimination of a "chronic anti-Israel bias."

"When the Human Rights Council treats Israel worse than North Korea, Iran, and Syria, it is the Council itself that is foolish and unworthy of its name. It is time for the countries who know better to demand changes," Haley said in a statement on March 2018.

Washington's withdrawal is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

"The Trump administration's withdrawal is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy: Defending Israeli abuses from criticism takes precedence above all else," said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Boycotting the council 

Set up in 2006, the body has 47 members, elected by the UN's General Assembly with a specific number of seats allocated for each region of the globe.

It has a permanent standing agenda item on suspected violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories that Washington wants removed.

The US boycotted the Human Rights Council for three years under President George W Bush, before rejoining under Barack Obama in 2009.

Under Obama, the US was elected to the body for a maximum two consecutive terms. After a year off, it was re-elected in 2016.

In May, the council voted to send a team of international investigators to probe the deadly shootings of Gaza protesters by Israeli forces.

The United States and Australia cast the only no votes at the time. Israel's ambassador in Geneva attacked the council for "spreading lies against Israel."

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