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The Trump administration is likely to announce soon that it will withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. A withdrawal would be ill-advised and badly timed. While some US criticisms of the council may have merit, the council’s 34th session, which concluded on March 24, was one of the strongest since the body was created in 2006.

Delegates arrive for the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

As the US State Department itself stated, US leadership at this session “proved critical to shaping the international response to urgent human rights situations and issues.”

In fact, this session produced strong resolutions – all adopted unanimously – on issues the US identified as priorities: the strengthening of the ability of the UN to collect evidence that could be used to hold those responsible for human rights violations in North Korea accountable; the establishment of an independent international fact-finding mission into alleged atrocities in Burma; and the renewal of the human rights commission in South Sudan, including an expanded mandate to collect and preserve evidence for future judicial efforts. These outcomes are a far cry from the accusations the Trump administration has made that the council is “unbalanced and unproductive” because of its serial condemnation of Israel.

Among other successes, the council also adopted a strong resolution on Syria, condemning the besieging and bombarding of civilians, the use of chemical weapons, and the deliberate attack on an aid convoy that “amounts to war crimes.” It renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran and adopted reports on the human rights situations in 11 countries, including Haiti, South Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

As he opened this past session, the UN human rights chief, Zeid al-Hussein, asked provocatively: “Are we all together – or do we fall together?” Any honest observer could only conclude that, despite the current composition of the Human Rights Council – which includes states with dismal rights records such as China, Cuba, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia – overall council members stood firmly together to try to help victims of serious human rights abuses around the globe. This is not the time – and the Human Rights Council is not the place – for the United States to embolden rights-abusing governments by withdrawing from, or otherwise undermining, the council.

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