US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the United States will end its participation in the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the inter-governmental rights agency undergoes “considerable reform.”
“While it may be the only such organization devoted to human rights, the Human Rights Council
requires considerable reform in order for us to continue to participate,” Tillerson wrote in a letter to nine nonprofit organizations this week, Foreign Policy reported on Wednesday.
The US “continues to evaluate the effectiveness” of the UNHRC but is skeptical about being in a group with nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which have poor human rights records, Tillerson wrote in his letter.
The top US diplomat added that American officials would “reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”
A final decision on whether the US would leave the council is expected to be made by President Donald Trump.
Trump is considering withdrawing the United States from the UNHRC, which the new administration accuses of being biased against Israel.
The United States is currently an elected member of the 47-state UNHRC, where its three-year term ends in 2019.
Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards a digger operated by Israeli forces during clashes following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on February 17, 2017. (AFP photo)
Washington’s threat to withdraw from the UN rights council comes after a new UN report that says Israel has been imposing an "apartheid regime" of racial discrimination against the Palestinian people.
The report, commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said on Wednesday that "Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole."
The study, which has been authored by Richard Falk, a former UN human rights investigator for the Palestinian territories, and Virginia Tilley, a professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, said the "strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people" was the main method through which Israel imposes apartheid.
Falk, who has served as the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, had said Israeli policies had unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
On the "basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence," the report said, "Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid."