Thursday 19 October 2017

US condemns human rights situation in Venezuela

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley delivers a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva (Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP)
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley delivers a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva (Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP)

The US ambassador to the United Nations has decried the "rapidly deteriorating human rights situation" in Venezuela, and said its government should withdraw from the Human Rights Council if it cannot address the problem.

Nikki Haley took about four minutes to deliver her highly-anticipated remarks to the UN council as it opened its three-week summer session in Geneva on Tuesday.

Reiterating concerns voiced by officials of President Donald Trump's administration about the effectiveness of the 47-member body, she said the United States is "looking carefully at this council and our participation in it".

Ms Haley also said it is "essential that this council address its chronic anti-Israel bias if it is to have any credibility".

She called on the council to adopt "the strongest possible resolutions on the critical human rights situations in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Belarus and Ukraine, and that it follow up to prevent further human rights violations and abuses in those countries".

Her address came months after she hit the headlines for describing the council as "corrupt".

Laying out her tack for her address in an opinion piece in The Washington Post on Friday, Ms Haley said the council must "end its practice of wrongly singling out Israel for criticism".

She said "the presence of multiple human rights-violating countries... has damaged both the reputation of the council and the cause of human rights".

She called for "competitive voting to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats".

She added: "I will outline changes that must be made. "When the world's pre-eminent human rights body is turned into a haven for dictators, the idea of international co-operation in support of human dignity is discredited."

The council now counts among its 47 members Burundi, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, all of which have spotty rights records but won seats through its arcane system of regional blocs.

UN officials say the council is a reflection of the world and that human rights would be worse off if it did not exist, while acknowledging its shortcomings.

They say it is an important venue to name and shame rights abusers and to hold countries to their own principles, because no country is perfect or fully above reproach.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in March that the United States will not continue participating in the council unless it undergoes "considerable reform".

That same month, Ms Haley told the Council on Foreign Relations: "I mean, the Human Rights Council is so corrupt... I think that we need to look at it.

"We need to tell them what we want to see to make it effective."

AP

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