UN Human Rights Council back to work with US seats empty

Nikki Haley
The Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — The United Nations’ Human Rights Council returned to business as usual Wednesday despite the U.S. pulling out — what one Western diplomat called a “big bang”— a day earlier.

The UN’s top rights body, based in Geneva, took up a discussion on summary executions and freedom of expression with the U.S. seats unoccupied.

Diplomats made no immediate or direct mention Wednesday of the American move. But one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the U.S. was notably absent from an informal back room meeting in Belarus that it might normally have attended.

Russia’s U.N. mission said in a statement that the U.S. exit from the Council reflected Washington’s unilateralist approach to global affairs.

It said the U.S. had tried but failed to turn the body into an “obedient instrument for advancing their interests and punishing the countries it dislikes,” and that American criticism of the body for failing to make changes advocated by Washington appeared “cynical.”

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, announced the pullout Tuesday, criticizing the council for “its chronic bias against Israel” and pointing out that it includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and Congo.

The Russian mission described the council as a “key international platform for cooperation in protecting human rights.”