Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, struck a confrontational tone in her first official meeting with the UN Human Rights Council. In her speech she pointedly drew attention to hypocrisy and inactivity of the international body, calling on it to pass resolutions addressing the grave human rights concerns in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Belarus, and Ukraine. She then called out Venezuela, which is denying its citizens medicine and food while jailing political opposition, for its deteriorating human rights situation. She ended her speech with a jab at the Human Rights Council’s anti-Israel bias, wondering how the body could pass 5 anti-Israel resolutions in March while not even considering a resolution about the crisis in Venezula.
Venezuela sits on the Human Rights Council, along with other such champions of human rights as Egypt, the Philippines, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Egypt refuses to allow human rights investigations, regulating NGOs to the point that they are unable to operate within the country. The Philippines are in the midst of a wave of extrajudicial killings, which have been linked to the country’s police force. Qatar is facing a boycott from neighboring states based on accusations that it supports terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia punishes homosexuality by death, bans Christmas and executes converts to Christianity, and lashes women who are raped as punishment for being without a male guardian. None of this, it seems, prevents a country from sitting on what is supposed to be the highest human rights authority in the world.
Meanwhile, Israel is the only country in the world that has its own place on the Human Rights Council standing agenda, and perceived Israeli human rights violations are a subject of talk at every meeting of the council. The five anti-Israel resolutions passed by the UNHRC this March are not out of the ordinary, and the Human Rights Council frequently meets to condemn Israel many times more than any other country, even in the midst of an ongoing conflict in Syria where hundreds of thousands have been killed, some with chemical weapons, and millions more displaced. This bias is so extreme that Israel has been more condemned by the Human Rights Council than every other country in the world – combined. Ambassador Haley’s decision to call out this obvious hypocrisy and discriminatory bias represents a shift in policy from the Obama administration, which has been accused of orchestrating an anti-Israel Security Council resolution during the lame-duck period before Trump’s inauguration.