March 26, 2019
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UN human rights chief calls Trump administration’s policy on migrant children ‘unconscionable’

Joel Martinez | AP
Joel Martinez | AP
Stefanie Herweck stands with other protesters in front of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector's Centralized Processing Center on Sunday, June 17, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. The U.S. Border Patrol on Sunday allowed reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the southern U.S. border, responding to new criticism and protests over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy and resulting separation of families.

A possible U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council is overshadowing discussions at the organization’s meeting in Geneva, as the Trump administration’s policies come under fire.

The 47-nation body, which meets three times a year, began Monday’s session with the U.N. human rights chief slamming the Trump administration’s new policy to separate migrant parents from their children after they enter the United States at the Mexican border, comparing it to child abuse.

“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian prince.

The Human Rights Council, which has existed in its current form since 2006, is shaping up to be the next flash point of the administration’s efforts to either reform or leave agreements and institutions it contends fall short of upholding American values.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, threatened to pull out of the council unless it stops unfair criticisms of Israel and prevents authoritarian governments from having a seat on the council. U.S. officials say no decision has made yet on whether to relinquish membership.

[As migrant children separated from families, pressure mounts on Collins, GOP]

The United States could completely withdraw, either now or when its current term ends next year, or it could retain observer status.

A withdrawal would further separate the United States from its long-standing allies, who disagree with the decision to leave the council entirely.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in a speech to the council Monday, sided with the United States in urging the council to stop reflexively criticizing Israel by keeping an agenda item devoted to human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a permanent item on the schedule. Calling it “disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace,” he said Britain will vote against it every time it comes up in the future.

But in an apparent allusion to the U.S. threat of withdrawal, Johnson also defended the council’s work.

“I stress that that does not mean that we in the U.K. are blind to the value of this council,” he said.

Since 2006, the Human Rights Council has passed more than 70 resolutions critical of Israel, 10 times as often as it has criticized Iran. Its membership includes 14 countries that are ranked as “not free” by Freedom House: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, China, Cuba, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

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